The Western Rite within the Orthodox Church


For a thousand years the ancient Apostolic Sees were united. There were five geographical centers of religious activity and jurisdiction, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople. These Patriarchates were all self-governing but united in Faith - "the faith once delivered to the saints James. While forms of worship varied in the different patriarchates a common underlying form united them. Sometimes the Eucharistic Rites looked quite different and sometimes they were merely "usages" of the same Form.

In 1054 AD, there occurred a tragic rift in the One United Body of Christ - the Great Schism. Unfortunately, those Churches using the Western Forms of Worship were cut off from their brothers and sisters in the East. While there were authentic theological problems that caused this rupture, the errors were not liturgical.

In 1870, a group of English Catholics under the direction of the German Professor of Theology, John Overbeck, dismayed by the news of the Roman Pontiff having been declared "infallible" at the First Vatican Council, sought refuge under the protection of the Russian Orthodox Church. These faithful people approached the Holy Synod of Moscow to request the use of their familiar Western Liturgical Rites. The Holy Synod referred the matter to a group of Theologians and Liturgical Scholars in the various Theological Academies of Russia for an opinion. After a great deal of study and consultation with other Orthodox Churches, it was determined that the Rite with certain corrections (i.e. removal of the "filioque" clause from the Nicene Creed; removal of the references to the "thesarus meritorum sanctorum" (the treasury of merits of the saints) and the insertion of a specific "descending Epiclesis" - Invocation of the Holy Spirit - after the Words of Institution in the Canon) was perfectly acceptable as an Orthodox Liturgical expression.

There was no attempt at "Liturgical archeology". The then current Roman Rite, which had come down from Apostolic times with little change, with the above-mentioned adaptations was approved for use among Orthodox Christians of the West as an option to the adoption of exotic Byzantine forms of Worship.

In 1911, a group of English Old Catholics approached the Patriarchate of Antioch with a similar request and Metropolitan Gerasimos Messarrah of Beirut, in the name of the Patriarch of Antioch, received them.

In 1958, Metropolitan Antony Bashir of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of New York and all North America received several Western congregations into his archdiocese after consultation with Patriarch Alexandros, III of Antioch thus establishing the Western Rite Vicariate within his Archdiocese. This is the Jurisdiction to which St. Augustine's belongs.

Orthodox Catholics of the Western Rite accept the Theology and Faith of the entire Eastern Orthodox Church and are fully in Communion with all authentic Orthodox Christians. The only difference is found in the Liturgical Rites and devotions used within their parishes.

Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba, of blessed memory, has given his full and unequivocal support and patronage to the Western Rite Congregations under within his archdiocese. Orthodox of the Western Rite are treated as equals and function fully within the Archdiocesan and Diocesan structures.

Today, Orthodox Christians using the Western forms of Worship can be found in the USA, Canada, Western Europe and Australia and New Zealand.



St. Augustine Orthodox Christian Church
55 West Third Avenue at Acoma Street, Denver, Colorado 80223
Right Reverend John A. Mangels, pastor