Western Rite Developments

Well, it all seems to be happening!

After decades of existing as a handful of scattered monastic communities and hermitages, it seems as though the Western Rite within the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is well on its way to being much more firmly established.

First, we got the informal decision of the Synod of Bishops that all Western Rite communities in ROCOR would be given stavropegial status - itself a great blessing, for it freed bishops from having to look after communities whose rite and culture they did not understand and communities with unsympathetic bishops striving to survive against all odds, generally making things easier for everybody concerned and removing some of the barriers that the previous unhelpful situation placed before those who might otherwise explore Orthodoxy as a spiritual home. After all, who wants to join an isolated mission whose ecclesiastical status is volatile and whose stability is precarious at best?

Then a number of parishes and missions started to apear: some of them newly founded, some of them developed from study societies, and some of them received from independent jurisdictions. The most signficant of these were perhaps the reception of the former HOCACA at the end of last year, and the encouraging news of the discussions with the Orthodox Church of France. This is all very encouraging, although it does raise some questions about the haste of things and the stability and formation both in the Faith and the priestly life of those being received.

Now, within the past fortnight, we have received news that the Council of Bishops has established a Western Rite Vicariate, giving much greater structure and stability to the Western Rite effort, and quite possibly addressing the matter raised in the previous paragraph, as now people are actually being received into something that is integrated and should now begin to operate as a unit. The recent meetings and proposed conferences, I am sure, will add to the stability, structure, and growth into a functional family.

Now, to top it all off, if anything makes a bold statement that the Western Rites of the Orthodox Church are as full and legitimate an expression of the Holy Orthodox Faith as any other, it is not that their forms of services are blessed for use, or that they come directly under the jurisdiction of the First-Hierarch himself, or even that those who belong to those rites are increasing in number, but rather the remarkable fact that ordinations are now being done at a western Pontifical High Mass, by an Orthodox bishop in western vestments, and using the Roman ordinal. I am almost sure that this combination is a first in modern Orthodox history and it speaks volumes, opening the way for people to trust the Church in its western expression with the salvation of their souls. May we soon begin to see Orthodox Saints whose lives have been formed in the Western Rite - the true test of its Orthodoxy.

I am truly delighted by this as an Orthodox Christian with western roots, who loves the western hymns, liturgies, and Saints, and I hope that this will also prove to have great missionary potential across the world but particularly in these isles where many of those Saints once sang those hymns and prayed those liturgies.

I thoroughly look forward to further developments and the video footage that we have been promised of this weekend's ordination. Please pray for Dom Joseph of Christ the Saviour Monastery as he is to be ordained to the diaconate.

I leave you with a photo-video collage from 2007, which brings back memories.

9 responses:

Jon Marc said...

I hadn't heard that ordinations were being celebrated in the Roman Rite - that is incredibly wonderful news! Hierarchs visiting to serve vested according to the Byzantine Rite or do ordinations by the Byzantine Rite always made me wonder whether the Western Rites missionary work really was just a 'transitory phase' before the introduction of the Byzantine Rite. Glory to God for all things!

VSO said...

Excellent news! I am especially pleased that the WRV is under Valdykas Hilarion and Jerome and not under the mercy of Bishops like Peter who by reputation is not a nice guy.

Rubricarius said...

Very good news indeed.

Jon Marc said...

Bishop Peter's a bit strict, but he's trying to be faithful to what he knows and has received. That being the case, I'm thankful Bishop Jerome is supervising everything :-).

Michael said...

I, too, am glad that Bishop Jerome is the Vicar for the Western Rite. He has long been respected for his many attributes that make him ideal for this role, and I am sure that he will be a nurturing father to the people in the Vicariate. That is what is needed.

As for the ordinations by the Roman Rite, this is truly amazing, I think. The practice of clergy vesting according to their own rite, regardless of where they are serving, comes from our Latin friends. That is their practice but it seems more proper to me for clergy to vest according to the rite that they are serving. I know that these vestments are all simply different local developments of the same things anyway but I think that vesting properly shows a respect for the integrity of the rites and, (quite importantly within our Orthodox context, where understanding of different rites under the Orthodox umbrella is still in its embryonic stages), it also shows a respect for the people who live their Orthodox faith within the context of those rites.

Given Fr Anthony Nelson's serving the Western Rite for some years now within Bishop Peter's diocese, the news that His Grace has concerns about a Western Rite mission makes me wonder whether there is perhaps something other than its rite that causes him to be hesitant. In any case, the Vicariate is stavropegial so the mission will not be under his omophor (or pallium, even), and I am sure that any difficulties within these new missions and parishes will pale into nothing once they become properly established as a part of the life of the Church. I know a number of Byzantine Rite parishes which, as new missions, were fraught with liturgical and other irregularities - such is the way of people who are learning. In time, and with humble obedience to direction from canonical authority, they gradually became more and more regularised. This, rather than immediate perfection, is the Orthodox way in almost all things, and I see no reason why a Western Rite mission should be any different.

Anonymous said...

Yes, things did seem to be happening, but I fear that Fr Michael Mansbridge-Wood's suspension will set things back again. Let us hope and pray that this is resolved soon, and that all the recent momentum is not lost.


Dale said...

It was said:

"The practice of clergy vesting according to their own rite, regardless of where they are serving, comes from our Latin friends."

Not at all true. The Romans only started doing this very, very recently; previous to Vatican II eastern and western rite clergy never con-celebrated (usually in the Roman rite there was no con-celebration; "usually" because in the diocese of Lyon, France, they had indeed preserved con-celebration).

The tradition of clergy wearing the vestments of their ancestral rite comes from the Oriental Orthodox; who, when they have inter-Orthodox con-celebrations each individual priest or bishop wears their own vestments; the rite itself follows the rite of the parish in which an inter-Orthodox service takes place).

Finally, according to the original Russian ukase accepting the Roman rite in 1870 it was accepted that con-celebrating roman rite clergy in a eastern church would wear vestments according to their own tradition. It is good to see that the Russian Church Abroad is abiding by this tradition.

Michael said...

Thank you for this correction, Dale. I had been unaware of both facts and am glad to know. I shall re-think my own view of vesting according to rite served rather than to one's own rite where the two differ.

As for the practical application of this in the Church Abroad, I'm less sure of it being in evidence today. However, it might be useful for me to have access to the ukase in question, if you have access online or elsewhere to a translation that youl would be willing to share. Thank you so much.

Dale said...

Hello Michael,

I am sorry but I no longer have access to the orginal sources of the Russian approval of the Tridentine rite in the 1870's. I did my Candidatus dissertation on this very question whilst doing my theology degree at S Serge in Paris. But, I now live in the states and do not even have a copy of the dissertation at hand!

The original ukaze speculated that converting Roman clergy would be received via vesting, but that the vestments would be according to the western usage; Anglican clergy were to be ordained, but once again, even if the rite was the Byzantine, the vestments were to be western and not eastern. The original ukaze also stipulates that in concelebrated services, especially Cathedral services, regardless of rite, the clergy were to wear the vestments of their own rite; this was to show the catholicity of the Church.

Please remember that this was in 1870...the Romans did not begin to have generalised concelebrations until the late 1960's! And Roman and eastern rite Catholics did not concelebrate until quite recently. Can you just imagine an Irish Roman priest of the old school willing to stand at the same altar as a married Ukranian priest!? The exceptions were a form of concelebration used during ordination rites and the diocese of Lyon which continued the ancient tradition of concelebration.

Needless to say, it is indeed a great jump forward in using the Roman rite for ordination within the ROCOR; I shall still continue to hold my breath on the true acceptance of the WR within Byzantine Orthodoxy. Let us not forget that during the 1960's there was strong support, but by the 1970's all such support evaporated.

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