Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Reply to Questions on the Western Rite

Below is the reply which I posted (in several parts) over at Orthodoxie. I would refer the reader to that page for the discussion and comments on the Western Rite. On a side note my answer to the question about communion in the hand was innacurate. I have since learned that many of the WRV parishes follow the Anglican custom of giving communion in the hand at the altar rail. I am not very comfortable with this, but it has been presumably approved by their hierarchy.

Lots of questions. Instead of asking more or repeating ones already asked, I thought I might try to answer a few. I am not going to answer all of them. Some are redundant and a few are polemic in nature. But I will give a shot at the more common ones.

Q: Why Western Rite?

A: Because there are more than a few people who are or might become theologically Orthodox, but for whom the Byzantine Rite is so culturally alien, that it would be an impediment to conversion. Also the West was Orthodox for a thousand years and remained steadfastly so during long periods throughout the first millennium when the East was wracked by heresy. The second millennium has seen the situation reversed with the West being largely subsumed by heresy and the East remaining Orthodox. However Western Rite worship and spirituality are part of the patrimony of the Church. We do not have the moral right to abandon it to heretics even if we were so inclined.

Q: Which calendar?

A: That would depend on the jurisdiction. Either is acceptable from my point of view.

Q: When will you celebrate Pascha? Will you celebrate Ash Wednesday, Forgiveness Vespers, or both?

A: Pascha is always celebrated on the same date for all Orthodox Christians. I know of no Orthodox jurisdiction that celebrates it using the calendar of Pope Gregory. Yes, Ash Wednesday would be observed. It’s a Western Christian tradition. Forgiveness Vespers is a largely Byzantine tradition. I would be uncomfortable trying to introduce too much Byzantine Rite tradition into a Western Rite parish. That said it would be the decision of the responsible hierarchs.

Q: What is your source of hymns?

A: That would be up to the responsible jurisdiction and its hierarchy. Obviously any hymns would have to be consistent with the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Q: Will the language of the people be used?

A: The traditional Lingua Franca of the Western Church has always been Latin. However there is also a tradition in favor of using the vernacular. I would think that both would be acceptable. In many parishes of the Byzantine Rite, Greek and Slavonic are still used. Sometimes they are mixed with English. The issue of language is not terribly important to me personally but I would probably lean in favor of English with maybe some Latin thrown in and the occasional High Mass in Latin on special occasions.

Q: Will you have priestesses?

A: No. We are Orthodox.

Q: What role will women play?

A: Probably the same roles they play in Byzantine Rite parishes.

Q: Is this truly Orthodox?

A: "Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies." - St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco

Q: Do you say filioque?

A: No. We are Orthodox.

Q: Is Western Rite accepted by all of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions?

A: The Western Rite is employed by some though not all of the canonical jurisdictions. However it is recognized as valid by all jurisdictions that are in communion with a jurisdiction which does employ Western Rite. Hence any jurisdiction in communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Church accepts the validity of the sacraments and orders of its Western Rite parishes. This is not an endorsement of the concept. But even the late Bp. +Anthony of the GOA (a harsh critic of the Western Rite) did not deny its validity.

Q: What kind of groups or individuals are attracted to Western Rite and why?

A: Most (though not all) persons attracted to the Western Rite, are converts who while desiring to embrace Orthodoxy do not wish to abandon the unique spiritual heritage of the west. Others, are people who though Orthodox in faith are not comfortable in the Byzantine Rite which can be quite alien to those raised in the Roman Catholic or Protestant traditions. In some cases this can be an impediment to conversion. A smaller number are Byzantine Rite Orthodox who for one reason or another discover the rich spiritual tradition of the west and desire to practice their Orthodox Christian Faith in that context and environment.

Q: Describe some of the most notable differences between Western and Eastern Rites.

A: This is a very broad question and my answer is necessarily going to be short. That said the Western Rite typically follows the forms of worship used by High Church Anglicans, or Roman Catholics before Vatican II, with some minor modifications to ensure theological Orthodoxy. There is no Filioque and a stronger epiclesis has been added. Leavened bread is used for communion. The Liturgy (Mass) is not sung or chanted except during High Mass. It is shorter and more direct than almost any of the liturgies used in the Byzantine Tradition. The altar is almost always against the wall of the church (preferably facing east). Communion is received while kneeling at the altar rail. Pews are normal in Western Rite parishes as are statues although icons are also common. Kneeling in church is common and prostrations such as are common in the Byzantine tradition are rare. Some jurisdictions employ liturgical rites which are much older, predating the schism. This however is not the norm in the United States. There are minor differences in the fasting rules (Western Rite are slightly less severe than those of the Byzantine Rite). Chant in the Western Tradition usually follows the pattern laid down by Pope St. Gregory the Great and commonly known as Gregorian chant. This is obviously different from the forms of chant in most Byzantine churches. Western Rite monastics follow the rule of St. Benedict, a rule that was unique to the Western Church. This is not an all inclusive list, but I think it covers some of the highlights.

Q: What is the fasting rule in Western Rite?

A: The fasting rules for the Western Rite parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese are those used by the schismatic Western Church in 1950. The handful of Western Rite parishes under the Russian Church Abroad employ fasting rules that were more common to the West at the turn of the previous millennium and are quite strict. The fasting rules for the Western Rite Vicarate can be found here.

Q: Is the rosary an accepted devotion in Western Rite and how or does it differ from the Roman Catholic devotion?

A: Although very rare in the Byzantine tradition some Western Rite Orthodox do say the rosary. It has neither been approved nor condemned by any council that I am aware of. As such it is a private devotion and a pious custom. An interesting article on the subject may be found here.

Q: Is Western Rite just the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with the objectionable parts removed and some required parts added? What is the basis of the Western Rite liturgy and how did it develop?

A: No. There are several liturgical rites which are western and used by the Orthodox Church. The oldest is the liturgy of St. Peter. This is the basis of almost all western liturgical traditions and has been consistently used in Russia by some communities even after the schism up to the present day. The core or “canon” of the Mass is generally agreed to have been fixed by Pope St. Gregory the Great. However, many different liturgical rites and “uses” developed in the west in the period predating the schism. This is largely due to the different circumstances that the West found itself in as opposed to the East in the first millennium. While in the East the Roman Empire did not fall until the 15th century in the west it fell in the 5th. The social and political chaos that followed the collapse of the western empire created a totally different situation. In the East the Byzantine Empire provided a force for political and religious unity that was largely absent in the west. This allowed for a more orderly development in liturgy that was mostly uniform throughout the empire. No such conditions existed in the west. Consequently there were many different “western rites” that predated the schism though most were to a large degree patterned around the canon of Pope St. Gregory. Indeed it would not be until the Tridentine reforms of the 16th century that the Roman Church (now long in schism) made a serious attempt to curb the seemingly endless number of different missals then in use. Even then exceptions were made for missals and rites that were more then 200 yrs old. Slowly over the next four centuries most of the western liturgical rites were eroded or subsumed by the Roman Rite promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1570 (Quo Primum Tempore). This was a by product of the continuing rise of the papal monarchy and its effort to Romanize the entire Western Church.

It should be noted that most of the developments during this period although perhaps undesirable were not heretical per se. The Roman Rite of the Mass that predated Vatican II was in most respects the Mass of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The developments were generally slow and minor. In a word they were organic. What has followed is something that has given serious pause to many Orthodox liturgists and theologians. I know of no Orthodox jurisdiction which uses the reformed rite of the Mass commonly called Novus Ordo by Roman Catholics. The reason for this is that it constitutes a serious departure from the organic development of the west’s liturgical rites. And it contains prayers and rites which are theologically suspect. A detailed discussion of this subject is however beyond the scope of my reply here.

Today there are two schools of thought among those who support the concept of Western Rite Orthodoxy. They may be referred to as the antiquinarians and the moderates.

The former believe that all legitimate development within the west’s liturgical traditions ceased in or around 1054. They reject the use of any rite or western church discipline that post dates the schism (though when the schism began is an interesting topic for another time). Most of these support a corrected form of worship commonly called the use of Sarum. Sarum was the pre-reformation liturgical rite used in England. The ROCOR and the Milan Synod (Old Calendarist) both employ forms of worship which they call Sarum. In fairness neither is a true use of Sarum Rite but both are based on pre schism English Missals. They also observe fasting rules and other disciplines common to at least some parts of the Orthodox west ante-schism.

In contrast the Western Rite Vicarate (WRV) of the Antiochian Archdiocese has adopted a more moderate position. They permit two forms of liturgy in their parishes. The first and most common is the so called Liturgy of St. Tikhon who submitted a corrected form of Anglican High Church worship based on the 1892 BCP to the Holy Synod of the Church in Russia for approval This approval with some minor changes was eventually granted. The WRV liturgy currently used is actually more heavily based on the 1928 BCP but the differences are not significant. This liturgy is almost always celebrated in English.

The other less common liturgy is the so called liturgy of Pope St. Gregory the Great. This is in most respects the Tridentine Rite of Mass or more correctly the Missal of Pius V. Like the Liturgy of St. Tikhon minor corrections have been made to ensure theological orthodoxy. This Mass is celebrated in both Latin and English.

The above is a very short and general history of the western rite liturgies. It is NOT all inclusive. A more detailed discussion of western rite liturgical history may be found here.

Q: Is it true that key figures in the Orthodox Church, past and present, are opposed to Western Rite? How do proponents of Western Rite respond? (I am thinking here specifically of Father Alexander Schmemann and other like minded Orthodox notables.)

A: The Western Rite has been and remains controversial among some Orthodox. Though few deny its validity there are more than a few who have questioned the need for it or the wisdom of it. A proper discussion of this subject would turn an already long post into a short book. However, for those interested a brief discussion of this topic can be found here.

Q: What sort of vestments do the priests/ Deacons wear?

A: Most Western Rite clergy where the soutain or cassock with a roman collar and biretta. The Liturgical Vestments are…

• Alb - linen overgarment, worn with a cincture (belt or rope) over the cassock and for clergy, beneath liturgical vestments. The baroque Roman form has lace cuffs and from hips down. In the medieval or English forms, worn with square apparels on the front and back lower hem, and on the cuffs.
• Amice - square of linen with ties, originally worn on the head as a hood, now worn thrown back over the alb purportedly to protect vestments from sweat and oil. In medieval or English use it often has a rectangular apparel forming a collar when thrown back.
• Apparels - pieces of brocade worn on the amice and alb in English or Medieval style as decorations.
• Chasuble - the Eucharistic vestment, worn only by the celebrating priest (and at certain services in Lent, folded up at the shoulders, by Deacon and Subdeacon). Original form is the Conical, being a half-circle of cloth joined in the front. The medieval chasubles were cut away at the sides and called Gothic. In the Counter-Reformation, the form was abbreviated extremely and stiffened to the 'Fiddleback' shape, particularly for use in hot climes. The Gothic revival style is based upon the look of the Gothic (cutaway conical) when worn.
• Cincture - a belt, most commonly of rope, anciently a band of silk and decorated with jewels.
• Clavis - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration found on the Western dalmatic and tunicle.
• Cope - a half-circle of cloth with a functional or non-functional hood, highly decorated. Clasped at the neck with a chain or rectangle of cloth called a 'morse'. Worn in processions, and by non-celebrating clergy during liturgy. Essentially identical in form to the Syriac 'phayno'.
• Crosier and Crook - pastoral staff in the form of a shepherd's crook, bears a cross. Normally used by bishops and abbots.
• Dalmatic - a wide sleeved tunic, slit up the sides. the normal eucharistic garment of the Deacon. Decorated with two vertical bands connected by two horizontal bands (see Clavis.)
• Maniple - a small thin band of cloth worn on the left wrist by clergy (subdeacon, deacon, priest, and bishop) at liturgy. Its purpose was originally to wipe the chalice with.
• Mitre- pointed cap with two peaks: front and back. Classified by three levels of decoration and costliness. Worn by bishops and abbots. English or Medieval style very short, Roman style much taller.
• Orphrey - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration on Western vestments, particularly the chasuble.
• Rochet - in the traditional style, refers to a floor length linen garment with a round yoke similar to an alb, but with close fitting sleeves, often tied at the cuffs. Also a flowing floor length linen garment with slits at the sides and sometimes over sleeves, worn by servers. In baroque Roman form a thigh length linen garment, more fitting than a surplice, similar to alb but worn un-belted. Is generally gathered close around the neck and wrists. Lace around cuffs and bottom third.
• Stole - a narrow band of cloth worn about the neck hanging down. The method of wear denotes the office: straight down for bishop, crossed at the breast for priest, crossed at the side for deacon.
• Tunicle - a wide sleeved tunic, slit up the sides, generally smaller in scale than the Dalmatic. Decorated with two vertical vertical bands (clavis) - normally worn by Subdeacons at liturgy, can also be worn by the crucifer, thurifer, and clerk.


Q: Do the Priests face the alter or the congregations?

A: The priest faces the altar for the Mass.

Q: What is changed in the consecration of elements to make the rite a valid one?

A: The only significant change in the rite of consecration has been the addition of a stronger epiclesis.

Q: Do the Western rite use Commmunion wafers like their western conterparts, or do they use a whole loaf, as in the east?

A: In the WRV wafers are used. However they are made of leavened bread that have been mashed down.

Q: Is Communion taken in the hand?

A: I am not aware of communion being given in the hand and would be opposed to the practice of it exists.

Q: Do they follow the guidelines for kneeling/ not kneeling durring Pascha as their Byzantine rite Brethren?

A: The western customs regarding kneeling are different from those of the Byzantine tradition.

Q: What is the proceedure for confession (priest-in-the-box or infront of an icon, prayers of absolution, ect)? How often is it taken? Is it offered on a weekly basis?

A: I am not certain if Holy Confession is done in a confessional or in person. There may be variation on that. The WRV rite used is very similar to that used by the Roman Church pre-Vatican II. It may be read here.
Confession is taken as often as necessary as preparation for receiving Holy Communion and must be taken at least once a year at a minimum. All Western Rite parishes that I am aware of offer confession at least weekly. The Milan Synod has a more elaborate rite of confession that is pre-schism. It may be read here…

Q: Does marriage take the same form as in the byzentine rite, or do they use the CBCP?

A: The rites of Holy Matrimony are different from the Byzantine Rite. The WRV is…

The Sarum is

Q: Is an infant baptized by sprinkling or by full immersion? Adult baptism?

A: Holy baptism is performed by full immersion unless there is an emergency or some compelling reason that precludes that.

Q: What is kept on the alter table?

A: The items typically kept on the altar are …
• Tabernacle: Where the holy sacrament is reserved.
• Crucifix : Often suspended or mounted above the altar.
• Altar cards: Three cards that contain the common prayers of the Mass in Latin (usually) that are said during parts of the Mass. Basically que cards for the priest.
• The sacred vessels.
• Alter Missal & Stand.: Containing the ordinary and propers for the Mass along with the readings.
• Candles which are lit during Mass and other services.
• Relics of saints

Q: Is the reserve sacrament kept in a tabernacle on the table or do they keep it in a tabernacle behind the alter (or somewhere off to the side? My Roman Catholic friend says that in some churches, you have to play "Find the Jesus")?

A; Yes. The sacrament is kept reserved for emergencies.

Q: "Do you anticipate/hope/intend that the Western Rite church will draw Episcopalians and other Main line Protestants who have gotten fed up with the shenanigans of their hierarchs?"

A: This has already happened and is continuing to happen.

Q: Is a process of conversion, baptism, eucharist, and chrismation required or do people just come in?

A: Conversion follows much the same pattern as in the Byzantine Rite although the rites may be different. Baptism Confession and Chrismation are the sacraments by which converts are received.

Q: How do you de-Anglicanize the Anglicans?

A: Carefully

Q: Icons?

A: Yes

Q: Will your mission have statues?

A: Most Western Rite parishes have statues. The West never acquired the negative view of them that the East did. However they are not usually venerated in the way icons are.

Q: Considering that most mainline western denominations have modernised their liturgy and introduced new innovations such as extraodinary ministers of the communion, altar girls, and *gasp* women priests, wouldn't a transition to a traditional western rite mission be just as difficult as a transition to an eastern rite parish?

A: In some cases this may be true. However those who are converting to Orthodoxy are unlikely to be happy with those things anyways. The Traditional Western Rites of worship are still far more easily distinguishable from the Byzantine Rite.

Q: This is a very hypothetical question....Are you concerned that the western rite movement could attract converts for all the wrong reasons? For example, liberal catholics may be attracted because they do not want follow their own church's teaching on divorce and contraception. Could this open a new can of worms by creating a powerful liberal movement in the Orthodox Church that has already ravaged the western denominations since the 1960s?

A: The process for receiving converts should weed out those who may be converting for the wrong reasons. I have a hard time imagining liberal anybodies who would be comfortable in an Orthodox parish of either rite. Theological liberals do not become Orthodox unless they are abandoning their liberalism. I would be more concerned with the possibility of conservative Catholics coming over because they don’t like all the happy clappy things going on in the Roman Church, but who are basically still Roman in their theology. They would be somewhat harder to weed out.

Q: Given the existence of the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil, and the beauty and purity contained there, why would someone seek out a "Western Rite?"

A: I am guessing you have never been to a High Mass by Palestrina or Mozart. No?

Q: Would they not be concerned that a "Western Rite" might separate them in custom and practice from many of their Orthodox brethren?

A: How so? Because the west fell into heresy? Would you have argued for the suppression of the Byzantine Rite had you lived in the west during the Arian heresy?

Q: Would this mission be under a SCOBA bishop, if not, then what jurisdiction is it? (Why can't I think of Orthodoxy without thinking about jurisdictions?)

A: The jurisdictional soup we have here in N. America and indeed throughout the world tends to color our thinking. Currently the two jurisdictions in N. America that support the Western Rite are the Antiochian Archdiocese and the ROCOR. The former is a member in good standing in SCOBA. The latter is emerging from a painful period of isolation from much of the Orthodox world (Deo Gratias!).

Q: Also, will it be "open" or "closed" communion, and what do they understand that to mean, anyway? I.e. who will the communicants be?

A: No. Western Rite are Orthodox. Western Rite Orthodox are in communion with whomever their jurisdiction is in communion with. Open communion is not allowed.

Q: How might the Western-Rite Orthodox parishes redeem the word "Western." The term seems to be often used pejoratively to refer to Roman Catholics and Protestants, as opposed to "Eastern" Orthodox.

A: “Western” has indeed become a pejorative for some Orthodox. I have spoken to some who I seriously suspect have an imaginary line in their head on one side of which all things are suspect and on the other Orthodoxy is presumed. The same can be said of the term “scholastic theology.” Within limits scholasticism compliments the mystical theology of the east in many ways. The monks of Mt. Athos were among the first to translate into Greek the writing of Thomas Aquinas whom some thought to be among the greatest of theologians (though they obviously had reservations about some of his more Augustinian views). There are far too many areas where the east has been positively influenced by the western scholastic approach. It was not really until the 19th century that the very serious knee jerk hostility to this school of theology began to take deep root in the Orthodox East. Like all forms of theology it is subject to abuse by the unwary as much as by the malicious.

In this sense the slow revival of Western Orthodoxy can help to remind people that the west has a rich and very Orthodox heritage that has been ignored or maligned for too long.

Q: Will you teach the people about the antiquity of the Western Rite, the writings of the Venerable Bede,the Orthodoxy of ancient Celtic Christianity,the consecration prayers used in the catacombs, etc.

A: Yes. The preservation and restoration of the West’s Orthodox heritage and history is an important part of the Western Rite’s mission. We are reclaiming a part of the Church’s patrimony.