St. Paul Orthodox Church
Katy, Texas
What is Western-Rite Orthodoxy?

BY A.D. 2000, approximately 1.433 billion persons, or slightly less than one third of the world’s population, called themselves, Christians, according to David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia. In spite of these millions of adherents, the percentage of the globe’s population that calls itself Christian will have fallen since 1900.

Sadly, these statistics include folk who claim to be Christian but who are not necessarily active in local congregations. Even more startling for most Americans is the decline in influence of Christian institutions and values on contemporary life in terms of ethical standards and practice, political and economic policies, and popular culture, such as movies, music, the press, and so forth.

As a consequence of this diminution of Christianity’s impact on society at large, historians, both Christian and secular, call this a post-Christian age. Martin Marty, a faculty member at the University of Chicago and author of The Modern Schism, notes that industrialization and urbanization which swept through Western Europe and North America in the latter half of the nineteenth century resulted in a society in which religion, if acknowledged at all, has been relegated to the private concerns of most citizens lives where it has less and less importance for each passing generation.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Bishop Leslie Newbigin, a long-time Christian missionary in India and author of Foolishness to the Greeks, maintains that the culture most impervious to the Christian Gospel is not Africa, Asia, or Oceania, but the industrialized West (Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand).

Newbigin’s observations are manifested in the decline of mainstream American churches since the 1960s, when, according to “Christianity Today”, Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Episcopalians lost literally millions of members. While mainline churches are losing members for a multiplicity of reasons, conservative or traditional Christian bodies continue to grow.

Among those groups that are growing are Christians known as Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox. Orthodoxy in North America claims somewhere between 5 to 6 million adherents. Worldwide, the Orthodox Church has a membership of about 250 million persons, which makes it the second largest Christian body on the globe, with Roman Catholicism’s having a membership of somewhat less than 1 billion.

In the United States, Orthodoxy, which was first brought to North America through Alaska by colonizers from czarist Russia in 1794, has been, until the last few years, a church primarily of immigrants and their descendents from Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. With these new arrivals came their clergy from the old country; so, today in the United States and Canada there are 14 Orthodox jurisdictions that reflect the ethnic make-up of those who originally brought the ancient Christian Faith to these shores.

Among those jurisdictions are at least four groups that came out of czarist Russia (the largest being the Orthodox Church in America), the Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Albanian Orthodox, and the Antiochian Orthodox. While each of these groups has its own hierarchy of bishops and administrative responsibilities, all of these churches are a part of the ancient Church of Christ known as Orthodoxy or Eastern Orthodoxy and are in communion with each other.

All of these bodies believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has always existed as one God in three divine Persons. Orthodox Christians believe that Almighty God created all that is, and that He is the Lord of all history. These Christians affirm that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, that He died for the sins of mankind, that He was raised from the grave by the power of the Father on Easter morning, that He ascended into heaven, that He is the head of His body, the Church, and that He sent God the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth. The summary of the faith is proclaimed each Sunday, when the faithful recite the Nicene Creed during the Divine Liturgy.

To the casual observer, the Orthodox Church appears to have much in common with the Roman Catholic Church. This is of course true in many ways. However, Rome began the process of breaking with the Eastern expression of the catholic faith, i.e. Orthodoxy, in the eleventh century.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodoxy, laying aside differences in regard to the role of the Pope in the life of the universal Church and certain other doctrinal disagreements, is the form of worship followed by most Orthodox Christians.

More specifically, the worship of the overwhelming majority of Orthodox congregations is called Eastern-Rite or Byzantine. This last term comes from the name of the eastern capital of the Roman Empire, Byzantium. Byzantine liturgics (forms of worship) are gloriously beautiful, complex, mostly sung, and quite repetitive from the perspective of contemporary Americans. Depending on the parish, liturgies in American and Canadian-Orthodox congregations are sometimes even conducted at least partially in the native tongue of the jurisdiction. But many now use English almost exclusively.

Not all Orthodox Christians use the Eastern or Byzantine liturgical forms. At least two branches of Orthodoxy in America also include congregations that use Western liturgies. The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese is the larger body that sanctions the use of forms of worship that most Americans and Canadians would perhaps find more familiar.

This liturgical form is known as the Western Rite. More specifically, the Western Rite is a specified form of worship that was used by Christians in Western Europe before the Roman Catholic Church broke with the Orthodox Church.

The Western Rite, when compared to Byzantine liturgical forms, is simpler, obviously shorter, and employs a hymnody (the hymns used) that are familiar to a great many American Christians. More precisely, the Western Rite, as approved by the Antiochian Archdiocese is a theologically corrected form of worship formerly used by either the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion.

In most Western-Rite Orthodox parishes, this means the liturgy is based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. In other Western-Rite congregations, the liturgy may be the ancient Western Liturgy of St. Gregory.

For those Western-Rite Christians who use a theologically corrected Anglican liturgy, the modifications, while important, would not be terribly noticeable to even the most regular worshippers from a traditional Episcopal congregation. Two of these alterations include the deletion of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed and the addition of a stronger epiclesis in the Eucharistic prayer said by the priest at the consecration of the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ.

Filioque is the Latin word for and the Son in the third section of the Nicene Creed that affirms the church’s belief that the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the triune Godhead. Orthodox Christians insist that the phrase and the Son in speaking of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father is an addition by a meeting of Western bishops that was never universally accepted by the Church. Even the papacy, which now accepts the phrase, originally rejected it. Moreover, this phrase causes a blurring of the roles of each of the three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Godhead. It is from the Father that the Son is begotten and from the Father that the Spirit proceeds.

Besides the removal of the filioque in the Creed, the Orthodox version of the Western Rite in its Anglican form requires the priest specifically to petition God the Holy Spirit to act in changing the gifts of bread and wine into God’s gift of the life-giving Body and Blood of the Incarnate Son. In addition to these two changes, the Orthodox Church’s Western Rite includes other indiscernible changes that most Episcopalians would find either familiar or certainly acceptable.

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 and 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 innovations such as the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed.

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 was asked by Episcopalians to examine the existing Anglican Book of Common Prayer and it was 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 the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, 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 thus 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.

In the United States, Orthodoxy, which was first brought to North America through Alaska by colonizers from czarist Russia in 1794, has been, until the last few years, a church primarily of immigrants and their descendents from Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. With these new arrivals came their clergy from the old country; so, today in the United States and Canada there are 14 Orthodox jurisdictions that reflect the ethnic make-up of those who originally brought the ancient Christian Faith to these shores.

Among those jurisdictions are at least four groups that came out of czarist Russia (the largest being the Orthodox Church in America), the Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Albanian Orthodox, and the Antiochian Orthodox. While each of these groups has its own hierarchy of bishops and administrative responsibilities, all of these churches are a part of the ancient Church of Christ known as Orthodoxy or Eastern Orthodoxy and are in communion with each other.

All of these bodies believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has always existed as one God in three divine Persons. Orthodox Christians believe that Almighty God created all that is, and that He is the Lord of all history. These Christians affirm that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, that He died for the sins of mankind, that He was raised from the grave by the power of the Father on Easter morning, that He ascended into heaven, that He is the head of His body, the Church, and that He sent God the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth. The summary of the faith is proclaimed each Sunday, when the faithful recite the Nicene Creed during the Divine Liturgy.

To the casual observer, the Orthodox Church appears to have much in common with the Roman Catholic Church. This is of course true in many ways. However, Rome began the process of breaking with the Eastern expression of the catholic faith, i.e. Orthodoxy, in the eleventh century.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodoxy, laying aside differences in regard to the role of the Pope in the life of the universal Church and certain other doctrinal disagreements, is the form of worship followed by most Orthodox Christians.

More specifically, the worship of the overwhelming majority of Orthodox congregations is called Eastern-Rite or Byzantine. This last term comes from the name of the eastern capital of the Roman Empire, Byzantium. Byzantine liturgics (forms of worship) are gloriously beautiful, complex, mostly sung, and quite repetitive from the perspective of contemporary Americans. Depending on the parish, liturgies in American and Canadian-Orthodox congregations are sometimes even conducted at least partially in the native tongue of the jurisdiction. But many now use English almost exclusively.

Not all Orthodox Christians use the Eastern or Byzantine liturgical forms. At least two branches of Orthodoxy in America also include congregations that use Western liturgies. The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese is the larger body that sanctions the use of forms of worship that most Americans and Canadians would perhaps find more familiar.

This liturgical form is known as the Western Rite. More specifically, the Western Rite is a specified form of worship that was used by Christians in Western Europe before the Roman Catholic Church broke with the Orthodox Church.

The Western Rite, when compared to Byzantine liturgical forms, is simpler, obviously shorter, and employs a hymnody (the hymns used) that are familiar to a great many American Christians. More precisely, the Western Rite, as approved by the Antiochian Archdiocese is a theologically corrected form of worship formerly used by either the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion.

In most Western-Rite Orthodox parishes, this means the liturgy is based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. In other Western-Rite congregations, the liturgy may be the ancient Western Liturgy of St. Gregory.

For those Western-Rite Christians who use a theologically corrected Anglican liturgy, the modifications, while important, would not be terribly noticeable to even the most regular worshippers from a traditional Episcopal congregation. Two of these alterations include the deletion of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed and the addition of a stronger epiclesis in the Eucharistic prayer said by the priest at the consecration of the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ.

Filioque is the Latin word for and the Son in the third section of the Nicene Creed that affirms the church’s belief that the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the triune Godhead. Orthodox Christians insist that the phrase and the Son in speaking of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father is an addition by a meeting of Western bishops that was never universally accepted by the Church. Even the papacy, which now accepts the phrase, originally rejected it. Moreover, this phrase causes a blurring of the roles of each of the three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Godhead. It is from the Father that the Son is begotten and from the Father that the Spirit proceeds.

Besides the removal of the filioque in the Creed, the Orthodox version of the Western Rite in its Anglican form requires the priest specifically to petition God the Holy Spirit to act in changing the gifts of bread and wine into God’s gift of the life-giving Body and Blood of the Incarnate Son. In addition to these two changes, the Orthodox Church’s Western Rite includes other indiscernible changes that most Episcopalians would find either familiar or certainly acceptable.

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 and 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 innovations such as the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed.

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 was asked by Episcopalians to examine the existing Anglican Book of Common Prayer and it was 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 the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, 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 thus 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.

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Weekly Schedule

9:00 am Sunday, Choir Practice
9:30 am Sunday, Matins - Divine Liturgy, Followed by:
Catechism and Sunday Class
7:00 pm Wednesday, Vespers
7:30 pm Wednesday, Choir Practice
5:30 pm Saturday, Vespers

Check calendar for services or events that might alter the normal schedule.

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