Western Rite: A Brief Introduction


A Western Rite parish is to be distinguished from the more usual Eastern or Byzantine Rite parishes. When the Latin Church in the west separated itself from the unity of the Orthodox Church, the venerable and ancient Western liturgy was lost to the Church. In the Nineteenth Century, when the Papal claims of supremacy culminated in the novel doctrine of “papal infallibility,” the Orthodox Church was approached by Westerners seeking the apostolic purity of the ancient, unchanging Orthodox Faith wherein the Bishop of Rome would be considered to have primacy of honor. They would utilize their own familiar and theologically Orthodox liturgical forms, while coincidentally restoring the Western liturgy to the Orthodox Church.

The Holy Synod of Moscow responded by approving the restored form of the Western Liturgy, the ancient Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great. This is the oldest Orthodox liturgy of the undivided Church still in use. The balance was struck involving the Eastern and Western traditions of Orthodoxy. In the twentieth century, the Patriarch of Antioch established the Western Rite Vicariate for North America. The Orthodox Church reclaimed what was rightfully hers.

According to the Western Rite Directory promulgated by Metropolitan ANTONY Bashir in 1962, the purpose of the Western Rite is 1.) to provide a home in the Orthodox Church for western people of non-Byzantine cultural and religious backgrounds and 2.) to witness the Catholicity of the Orthodox church to her Byzantine Rite people, priests and theologians.

Although still few in numbers, Western Rite Orthodoxy exists throughout the world, and in the United States the work is blessed by His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba through the work Bishop Basil, his Archepiscopal Vicar; Fr. Edward Hughes, who serves as Vicar-General; and the Very Rev. Paul W. S. Schneirla, who serves as the Vicar-General Emeritus of the Vicariate. Western Rite Orthodoxy has proven itself to be an excellent missionary out-reach to those who seek the assurance of the Orthodox Catholic Faith and who find themselves better rooted in their own western spiritual ethos than the Byzantine character of the eastern rites.

Orthodox people of both Rites worship together. The clergy are interchangeable, they share the same hierarchy and the spiritual unity of the faith.

The mission of the Orthodox Church, as the authentic Church of the New Testament, is to make our country an Orthodox nation. Whenever the Church has been given the opportunity to freely teach and live its Faith, it has always won the hearts and the souls of men and woman to the Truth. In our day when so many are worn down by the false claims of so many religious leaders, the Orthodox Church and Faith stand as a beacon of Truth drawing all to her portals of life.