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.
Well, it all seems to be happening!