Brief History of the Western Rite

The Western Rite in Holy Orthodoxy

Before the year 1054 there would have been no difficulty in declaring that the Western Rite of the Undivided Church was simply the use of Latin speaking Churches. The Rite used by Christians in Scotland, Ireland and England, was as Orthodox as that used in Constantinople. In the first thousand years of Christendom all the far flung churches that were in communion with the Five Patriarchates (Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome) were Orthodox. After 1054, and more precisely, after the Norman Conquest (1066) of England, the Churches of the West were drawn into the Great Schism of the Roman Patriarchate away from the Unity of the Orthodox Church. The Western Liturgy came to reflect the Papal errors and even incorporated the Filioque in the Nicene Creed with other aberrations.

The restoration of a corrected, and truly Orthodox, Western Rite to Holy Orthodoxy in the United States was not originated by laity or by ordinary clergy. The vision of the Western Rite as an essential part of the Orthodox Mission in America belonged to Archbishop Tikhon of the American Archdiocese under the Moscow Patriarchate. About one hundred years ago he examined the existing Anglican Book of Common Prayer and sent it to the Holy Synod of Moscow. That Liturgy, derived from the ancient use of the Orthodox West, and first expressed in English in the edition of 1549 by authority of King Edward the Sixth of England, was corrected and approved by the Holy Synod for Orthodox Church use.

In the years following, blessed Tikhon was himself elevated to Patriarch of Moscow, martyred by the communists in 1925, since declared a Saint of the Church, and now known to Orthodox faithful throughout the world as St. Tikhon, Enlightener of America. This is the same Saint Tikhon who, about the time he obtained approval for the restoration of the Western Rite in America, also consecrated (in 1904) Raphael Hawaweeny to the episcopate of the Orthodox Church of North America, from which the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese descends.

As the Orthodox Mission in America grew in numbers and in maturity, further authorization of the Western Rite was given by the Patriarchs and Holy Synod of Antioch. Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir) founded the Western Rite Vicariate for the creation of Western Rite Missions and Parishes in the Archdiocese. Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) has promoted an increasing number of Western Rite Parishes throughout North America; and new additions of Clergy and Laity to this world have more than doubled its size in a few years. Western Rite Orthodoxy is now a rapidly growing dimension of the Church’s Mission in America.

The Western Rite Parishes represent a restoration of the legitimate Western Liturgy of the Undivided Church of the first 1,000 years, by Patriarchal authority, for the benefit of all Orthodox people.

— Fr. John Connely, MA

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