On the Western Rite Liturgy


Not all Orthodox Christians use the Eastern or Byzantine liturgical forms. The Western Rite, when compared to the Byzantine liturgical forms, is simpler, less redundant, obviously shorter, and employs a hymnody (the hymns used) that is 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 used by the Latin Church (Roman) or the Anglican Communion. In some Western Rite congregations, the Liturgy may be a Latin or English form of pre-Vatican-II Roman Catholic worship. (In France , all native French Orthodox Christians, who number in the thousands, use this form of worship). Other Western Rite parishes use a liturgy based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Modifications, while important, would not be terribly noticeable to even the most regular worshippers. Two of these alterations include the deletion of the filioque (“and the Son”) 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 into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The third section of the Nicene Creed affirms the Church's belief that the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons of the triune Godhead. History shows that the phrase “and the Son” (or, in Latin, filioque ) in speaking of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father was initially an addition by a local council of Western Bishops that was originally even rejected by the Pope of Rome. The Eastern bishops argued the filioque 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 it is from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds, through the Son.

Besides the removal of the filioque in the Creed, the Western Rite Liturgy requires the priest to petition God the Holy Spirit to act in changing the gifts of bread and wine into the life giving Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The words used in the Liturgy are: “And we beseech thee, O Lord, to send down thy Holy Spirit upon these offerings, that he would make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ, and that which is in this Cup the precious Blood of thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, transmuting them by thy Holy Spirit. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN.”

In addition to these two changes, the Western Rite includes other indiscernible changes that Latin Roman Catholics and most Anglo-Catholics (High Church Episcopalians) would find to be either familiar or certainly acceptable. As some Latin Rite Roman Catholic parishes as well as Protestant Churches continue their decline by denial of basic Catholic faith, doctrine and worship by turning to inclusive language liturgies, which refer to God as mother (to name but one example) and promulgate woman “priests,” many traditional Catholic Christians of both the Roman and Anglican backgrounds are turning to the Orthodox Catholic Church.

By doing so, these Christians have retained familiar forms of worship and at the same time insured themselves of remaining within an ecclesiastical communion, and under godly, Orthodox bishops who teach and practice the ancient Gospel of Jesus Christ.