I have had to comment on a comment coming from a well-known English priest of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia. It is not my intention to raise any polemics against our Eastern Orthodox brethren, I think it is important for you all to know that attempts to create ‘Anglican-friendly’ structures in Orthodoxy are very different to the concept of the Personal Ordinariates in the Catholic Church.
Here is a scholarly article by Dr. Jean-François Mayer, a researcher at Fribourg University in Switzerland I have known personally. Dr. Mayer himself had become Orthodox after having explored a number of so-called ‘independent Catholic’ churches. I know nothing of his present ecclesial affiliation, but his academic speciality is that of new religious movements, sometimes known as cults and sects and he has a website – Religioscope with articles in French and English.
His position on western Orthodoxy is frankly sceptical, but he seems to give a fair appraisal of the Western Orthodox movement. The translation from the original French version is mine.
* * *
ATTEMPTS AT CREATING
A WESTERN ORTHODOX RITE
by Jean-François Mayer
Religioscope – May 2002
N.B.: This article resumes, with a few updates and the addition of a “sitography”, large extracts from a text named "Must Orthodoxy be Byzantine? Attempts at creating a western Orthodox rite”, published five years ago in a collective work called Regards sur l'Orthodoxie. Mélanges offerts à Jacques Goudet (under the direction of Germain Ivanoff-Trinadtzaty), Lausanne, L'Age d'Homme, 1997, pp. 191-213. Religioscope thanks the publisher Ed. L'Age d'Homme for having authorized this article and takes advantage of the occasion to remind its readers about the considerable production of this firm, and especially its major contribution to publishing Slavonic literature.
Westerners who join the Orthodox Church feel that they are the legitimate heirs of western Christianity of the first millennium. This, however, brings up the question about the ways to find attachments to this heritage: Will this simply be a question of incorporating it as a fundamental spiritual element of Orthodox tradition, or can we try to find the specific practices of an Orthodox West, or even “orthodoxise” western liturgical practices? It is not surprising that some individuals or groups have attempted to find a western Orthodox way with its own rites. Historically, this phenomenon has found itself in interaction with several other developments: the emergence of ecumenical concerns, Anglo-Catholicism, Old Catholicism, the liturgical research movement, the Russian emigration and the Orthodox diaspora in general. We will sketch out a summary of the attempts to create a western Orthodox rite, by endeavouring not to simply repeat already existing studies.
Orthodoxy and plurality of rites
Over the most recent centuries, the Orthodox Churches have been confronted by the problem of liturgical plurality. This was against the reforms of Patriarch Nikon intended to align Russian practices with those of the Greek Church, which in the 17th century caused the resistance of the Old Believers. From 1800, those Old Believers who returned to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church were allowed to keep their rite (edinovertsy). In 1845 and the following years, some tens of thousands of Estonians and Latvians massively joined the Orthodox Church and brought some of their Lutheran usages, specially hymns into parishes specially instituted for them. Even the use of the organ would have been introduced into some Baltic Orthodox churches! In May 1897, 9,000 Nestorians of the Uremia region, with their bishop Jonas, asked to enter the communion of the Russian Church, and the union was solemnly celebrated in Saint Petersbourg in March 1898. Though some Russian clerics were favourable for these converts to keep their rites, in a similar way to Roman Catholic practices in this matter, the Russian missionaries sent to Uremia were rapidly known for their efforts of bringing the Syrian Oriental liturgical heritage of the newly received parishes into line with Russian usage.
Finally, we cannot forget that the presence of uniate groups brought the Orthodox Church to face the question of the plurality of rites. Also, some authors consider the foundation of western rite Orthodox communities as “uniatism in reverse” and consider that this experience constitutes “does not so much constitute original creations but rather conjectural and limited borrowings from the Roman model”.
It can be said in any case that the Oriental Patriarchs were not at the origin of western rite Orthodox communities: the initiative always came from western individuals or small groups of converts (or candidates for conversion).
The Anglican “Non-Juring” bishops of the 18th century
The first case of the question being asked of western rite Christians entering into communion was that of the Anglican “Non-Juring” bishops, those who refused to deny their allegiance to James II (1633-1701) — who converted to Roman Catholicism and was overthrown in 1688 — and to swear an oath to William III whilst the Sovereign to whom they had sworn loyalty was still living. Some persevered in their separation after the death of James II and some entered into correspondence with the Oriental Patriarchs in view to exploring the possibilities of union (but not all the Non-Jurors approved this step).
This contact was established through the presence in England (from 1712) of an emissary of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Archbishop Arsenios of Thebaide, who received several persons into the Orthodox Church during his stay in England. He was not the first Orthodox cleric to come, and a Greek chapel had been running for some time in London during the last quarter of the 17th century. In 1716, a group of Non-Jurors wrote propositions in view to a “concordat between the Orthodox and Catholic remnant of the British Churches and the Oriental Catholic and Apostolic Church”, then entrusted the text to Archbishop Arsenios. He went to Moscow to take it to Czar Peter the Great, who was interested in the project and gave the document to the Oriental Patriarchs.
Reading the exchange between the Non-Jurors and the authorities of the Orthodox Church reveals a fundamental ecclesiological misunderstanding: the English presented themselves on a footing of agility in view to union and made rash proposals, for example the recognition of the Church Jerusalem as the “true mother Church”. They did not intend to adopt the Orthodox Faith without restriction, but imposed their conditions. For the liturgy, to draw near to the Oriental Patriarchs, they proposed the restoration of the old English liturgy “with appropriate additions and alterations”. They refused to invoke the Mother of God and the Saints, and showed great reticence faced with the veneration of icons. The common response of the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem and Alexandria is without any ambiguity, and immediately emphasizes that the Orthodox Church has always remained faithful to the doctrine of the Apostles. It refuses to open the door to any doctrinal compromise with any kind of Protestantism whatsoever. To stay at the level of the liturgical question, the Patriarchs were very careful: if the union is truly wanted, the customs should not be “entirely foreign and diametrically opposed to each other”, which would introduce a cause for breakdown.
“(…) the Oriental Orthodox Church recognizes only one liturgy (…), written by the first Bishop of Jerusalem, James the brother of the Lord, and then abridged on account of its length by the great Father Basil, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and then abridged again by John, the Patriarch of Constantinople the Golden Mouthed (…). It is therefore fitting that those who are called the remnant of primitive piety should use it when they will be united with us, so that there should be no point of disagreement between us (…). For the English liturgy, we have no knowledge of it, not having seen or read it. However, we feel some suspicion about it, for the reason of the number and variety of heresies, schisms and sects in this area, fearing that the heretics may have introduced some corruption or deviation into right Faith. It is therefore necessary for us to see and read it. We will then approve it as just or reject it as disagreeing with our immaculate Faith. When we will have considered it thus, if it needs corrections, we will correct it. If possible, we will give it the sanction of an authentic form. However, what need of another liturgy have those who possess the true and sincere liturgy of our divine Father Chrysostome (…)? If those who call themselves the remnant of primitive piety are prepared to receive it, they will be more intimately and closely linked with us.”
Later exchanges of correspondence did not allow the resolution of several points of disagreement, not to mention the interventions of the “official” Anglican Church to discourage the Oriental Patriarchs for pursuing talks with a small group of “schismatics”. The Non-Jurors slowly disappeared.
The passage quoted above shows under which angle, as from the first mention of a possibility of a western rite, this problem was tackled, placing the bishops into a dilemma: they could not absolutely exclude the possibility of a non-Byzantine rite, but they felt potential dangers linked with its adoption at the same time.
The 19th century context
It was necessary to wait until the 19th century for the question to return to the agenda. The historical context was more favourable. In the aftermath of the commotion of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, there was a “growing push for spiritual unity”, reinforced by awareness that the growth of impiety was a threat for all believers. Thus, in 1857, some German bishops took the initiative of an association to pray for unity between “Greeks” and “Latins”, and the Baron of Haxthausen wrote to Metropolitan Philaret to try to convince him to launch a similar initiative in Russia.
There was a growing interest in England for the Church and the Orthodox Liturgy, which later resulted in initiatives in view to drawing together. The “Apostles” of the “Catholic Apostolic” Church (the “Irvingite” movement), which came into being in the England of the 1830’s, took on considerable liturgical work based on a study of different existing traditions, and drew up a Eucharistic rite “of Roman for, English language and Oriental ethos — including a certain number of direct borrowings from oriental liturgies”.
The Old Catholic movement, from the reaction against Vatican I, affirmed since the Congress of Munich of 1871 that it aspired to re-establish union with the “Greek Church” the eucharistic rite published in 1880 by Bishop Edward Herzog (Switzerland) incorporated the epiclesis, but placed it before the words of institution. For both national and Christian reasons, General Alexander Kireeff (1832-1910) devoted nearly forty years of reconciliation efforts between the Orthodox Church and the Old Catholics, seeing in the latter a “Western Orthodox Sister Church” with which there was no dogmatic difference and whose hierarchy was considered as valid.
There was also a greater openness to the western approaches from the Russian Church, usually the main interlocutor at this time. The reports of the procurator of the Holy Synod show the attention given manifestations of sympathy for the Orthodox liturgical traditions in the Anglican Church (it was noted that, apart from the translations of the liturgical texts, several Anglican parishes began “gradually to introduce our liturgical chant”) and the concern to provide means for non-Orthodox to approach the Church, as much in Russia as in other countries. Finally, we should not forget the cases of conversions to the Orthodox Church in the west during the 19th century. That of Father Wladimir Guettée (1816-1892) is one of the best known, but there were others.
A pioneer of the western rite: J.J. Overbeck
Among these converts, a figure stands out, who made a golden thread of the western rite in the Orthodox Church throughout his life: Julian Joseph Overbeck (1821-1905), of German origin, ordained a Catholic priest in 1845, went over to Protestantism in 1857 and went to England the same year, where he devoted himself to publishing Syrian manuscripts (especially the texts of Saint Ephraim the Syrian), then officially received into the Orthodox Church in London in 1869. A revealing detail: he would have wanted to take this step from 1865 and himself dates his decisive encounter with Orthodox tradition from this time. However, according to some sources, he would first of all have wanted to obtain the recognition of his Western Orthodox Church plan, and this led him to defer his formal decision.
From his conversion until his death, he remained of an indefectible loyalty — despite the disappointments felt in relation to the realization of some projects. His ecclesiology refuses any “branch theory”:
“The Orthodox Church is unquestionably the Church of undivided Christianity, for she rests on the seven Ecumenical Synods (…). It was also true that the Church of undivided Christianity was exclusively the authentic Catholic Church, to the exclusion of any other. The Orthodox Church is also the only and unique Catholic Church, to the exclusion of any other.
“Neither the Roman Church nor the Protestant denominations (to which the Anglican Church belongs) can pretend to be the Catholic Church or parts of it. They are nothing other that heterodox bodies and are outside the Church.”
It is this very logic that justifies the re-establishment of a western rite Orthodox Church in Overbeck’s view: even though the notions of “Oriental Church” and “Orthodox Church” provisionally coincide, they are not identical or synonyms. He refused any idea of “orientalizing” western converts and showed his critical attitude towards another convert, Timothy (Stephen) Hatherly (1827-1905), who tried to set up a Byzantine Rite Orthodox parish for British converts. Overbeck’s plan to restore the Western Orthodox Church was entirely something else:
“ How can we transform the present heterodox Western Church into an Orthodox Church and thus make it like, in essentials, as its was before the schism? – Reject everything that is heterodox in Roman Catholic teaching and book, and you will have, in the essentials, the Western Catholic Orthodox Church of before the schism.”
Overbeck’s idea was therefore to undertake a task of purifying the existing western rites: we will see this idea reappear several times. In his enthusiasm and energy, Overbeck, freshly received into the Orthodox Church, did not consider it necessary first of all to go ahead with completely revising the liturgical texts to begin the foundation of a western rite Orthodox community: he promised the Russians that no more than two months were needed! Indeed, once the Ordo Missae was revised (a task already undertaken by Overbeck), it would have been enough to revise the mobile parts progressively throughout the year. The administration of the Sacraments could be provisionally according to the oriental rite. Overbeck emphasized the pastoral importance of this work: in his opinion, parishes using the local language but the oriental rite would never bring in more than a handful of converts, “whilst thousands would flock to the Western Orthodox Church, because it corresponds more with their being and western nature”. His “Western Catholic-Orthodox Liturgy of the Mass”, published in Latin and English in London towards 1871, essentially follows the Roman Rite, but adds a Byzantine-style epiclesis.
Overbeck dreamed of the day when each nationality would have its national Catholic-Orthodox Church, as in the oriental countries, based on a common Catholic doctrine and the holy canons. At one time, he believed Old Catholicism would be the vehicle of these hopes, and thought he could discern a movement of a greater importance that would go beyond the Protestant Reformation in this reaction against Roman abuses. However, he was not unaware of the Old Catholics’ hesitations to take the final step. A few years later, Overbeck had lost all his illusions about the potential offered by the Old Catholic movement, which had fatally delayed the realization of his own plans. He denounced their indifferentism, having underestimated the dogmatic differences. Far from accepting all the dogmas of the Orthodox Church without reserve, the Old Catholics were unfortunately nearer to the Anglican “branch theory”. Rather than follow the advice of Overbeck, who suggested that the Old Catholics should leave the Anglicans out of it, they wanted to include the Anglicans in their discussions with the Orthodox. This brought Old Catholicism increasingly to assimilate itself to Anglicanism.
Faced with this failure, Overbeck felt forced to pursue his solitary combat for the creation of a western rite Orthodox Church, based on a petition he wrote in 1867 and sent, bearing several tens of signatures, to the Holy Synod of the Russian Church in September 1869: “We are Westerners and must remain Westerners.” Overbeck emphasized the loyalty of the petitioners, who had never held separate religious services, but always attended those of the Greek and Russian parishes, in the hope that their waiting would be answered. The years went by and the group dispersed little by little.
The authorities of the Russian Church were seriously interested in Overbeck’s plan, which enjoyed a real esteem. However, for many reasons, especially the obviously unpromising perspectives and very strong resistance from the Greek Church, the Holy Synod finally decided to abandon the project in 1884. However, as Florovsky underlined, “the question brought up by Overbeck was pertinent ». His position was awkward for those who dreamed of “reconciliation between the Churches”. This element must often be considered to make a correct interpretation of the background of reactions that later accompanied other attempts to establish western rite Orthodox communities.
Russian Theologians and the Episcopalian Rite
A commission of Russian theologians had again to look into the question of the western rite in 1904, following questions asked by the future Patriarch Tikhon (who was then ministering in the United States) to know if he could authorize the use of the Episcopalian rite (American Prayer Book) if a whole American parish went over to the Orthodox Church.
The theologians consulted revealed ambiguity around some fundamental doctrines in these texts. They emphasized that it was not only necessary to be attentive to their content, but also the ecclesial context in which they were written. As they examined the doubtful points in turn, the commission noted that some rites (that of ordination for example) were not expressly non-Orthodox, but could contain “indirect indications” showing that they rested “on a different dogmatic basis”. From now onwards, the “latent inadequacies” of the rite could not be authorized without correction.
“When a rite has been compiled with the special intention of adapting it to Protestant beliefs, it would not be unreasonable, before admitting its use, to subject it to a special revision in the opposite sense.”
“The examination of the Book of Common Prayer leads to the overall conclusion that what it contains presents comparatively little material clearly contradicting Orthodox teaching and would therefore not be admissible in Orthodox worship. This conclusion, however, is not derived from the notion of the book being really Orthodox, but simply that it was compiled in a spirit of compromise and that, cleverly avoiding the doctrinal points to be discussed, it attempts to reconcile truly contradictory tendencies. It would follow that those who professed Protestantism and their opponents could both use it in good conscience.” 
To allow their use by ex-Anglican converts, these texts should firstly be revised in the spirit of the Orthodox Church. The commission also recommended that the clergy should be received with a fresh conditional ordination. The question seems at any rate to have remained theoretical and not to have been applied to date.
Western Rite Communities in the United States
During the 20th century, there were in the United States several cases of attempting to set up western rite Orthodox communities, both in the jurisdiction of traditional Orthodox Churches and in a “wildcat” and non-canonical form. Some of these communities ended up by being received into an Orthodox jurisdiction. One of these cases was the Society of Saint Basil, which came into being indirectly through the action of Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh (1880-1966), who in 1917 became Bishop of Brooklyn and head of the Syrian mission within the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in America. An act signed in 1927 by Metropolitan Plato and several other Russian bishops in America charged Bishop Aftimios to establish the foundations of an autonomous American Church, not linked to ethnic origins, and above all designed for American-born and English-speaking people. However, the time was hardly right, with all the troubles in the Russian Church. Bishop Aftimios ended up by marrying in 1933.
He has consecrated several persons, among whom William A. Nichols, who in 1931 was at the origin of the Society of Saint Basil. This was later directed by Alexander Turner, who succeeded in getting the group received into the Antiochian jurisdiction in the United States in 1961 as a western rite community. Indeed, as from 1958, with the approval of Patriarch Alexander III of Antioch, Metropolitan Anthony Bashir authorized the use of the western rite in North America.
We cannot say there was a mass movement towards the western rite in the United States, partly because of the reticence of most of the bishops. Towards 1970, if the Syrian Archdiocese firmly continued to support it by explaining that oriental liturgical practice was “foreign to everything known by western Christians”, voices like Father Alexander Schmemann on the contrary feared that spreading the western rite could “dangerous multiply spiritual adventures, examples of which we have seen all too often in the past, and can only hinder the true progress of Orthodoxy in the West”.
However, alongside the parishes of the Antiochian jurisdiction, the Russian Synod in Exile, despite misadventures that were still fresh in France (we will come back to this later), had established three western rite parishes in 1968, with Archpriest George Grabbe as their Dean. These parishes had adopted the old calendar, and a commission had been established by the Synod to define guidelines for the use of the western rite. Talking to the faithful of the western rite parish of Greenwich (Connecticut) in November 1968, Father George Grabbe explained in what spirit they should go ahead:
“(…) the West has been separated from Orthodoxy for so many centuries. Life is not static. It is development and growth. This is why it is impossible to return mechanically to forms of Christian life that existed in the West more than a thousand years ago, when it was still Orthodox. To express Orthodoxy again, the western forms must be enriched by the heritage of the centuries of uninterrupted tradition in the life of the Orthodox Church. It experience (…) must become your experience and be incorporated into western liturgical forms.”
As often in the experience of the western rite, it also proved to be short-lived. In 1974, in the whole of America, there remained only two western rite parishes under canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, both with the Antiochians.
How is it that the movement today is booming, to the point of counting some thirty parishes in North America in 1996? Paradoxically we need to look for the reasons in the original religious denominations of the converts, mainly coming from the Episcopalian or Roman Catholic ranks, and reacting against the liturgical (and sometimes doctrinal) upheavals in their communities. As Father Paul Schneirla, head of the Western Rite Vicariate in the Antiochian Archdiocese, recognizes, “we are not conducting a proselytism program, but we represent an option for those who have already rejected the changes in their old denomination”.
The liturgical practice represents a “theologically corrected form of worship previously used by the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion”. We remain in the line of Overbeck’s attempts in the 19th century or the suggestions made by the 1904 commission of theologians. The recent edition of the missal published by the Western Rite Vicariate contains two liturgies: the “Mass according to the Rite of Saint Tikhon” and the “Mass according to the Rite of Saint Gregory”. These are symbolic patronages: the first is a revision of the Anglican rite, and the second is an adapted Tridentine Mass, close to the version proposed by Overbeck. Apart from a few details, a Roman Catholic would find the pre-conciliar liturgy, but celebrated in English. This pure and simple resuming of a western rite with a few adapted elements avoids the arbitrary nature of a liturgical reconstruction, but also implies the de facto incorporation of post-schism elements. It is revealing that the imagery used in the Vicariate’s publications is often borrowed from medieval or neo-gothic engravings.
Father Alexey Young, an American priest who collaborates in several Orthodox periodicals asked in 1989 to be received into the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese after having ministered for years in a parish of the Russian Church in Exile. He was sensitive to the missionary possibilities that seemed be to opening up and a form of “re-appropriation” of his own western heritage”. In June 1996, he resigned from the western rite parish where he served, and asked to return to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in Exile. He explained:
“I began to like the western rite and understand its authentic pre-schism spirituality and its viable character for our time. (…) However, I am now leaving the western rite movement – not because I don’t like the rite, but because I believe the movement itself within the Antiochian Archdiocese has failed. Of course, it continues to grow numerically (…). However, quantity does not ensure quality, and the direction of this movement has been largely ineffective. In many cases, our western rite clergy and faithful have not been adequately instructed, prepared or guided. They do not understand the spirit of Orthodoxy or even their own pre-schism western heritage. In moist cases, they sought union with the Orthodox Church above all to preserve a rite that had been abolished in the Church to which they formerly belonged. This is not an adequate reason to become Orthodox, and this is not a sufficient justification for a Church to accept them.”
Apart from the thirty American parishes, a few western rite parishes in the Antiochian jurisdiction saw the day in the United Kingdom. They originated in an initiative called Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy. In June 1993, some twenty Anglican clerics met to examine the “Orthodox option”, faced with increasingly clear threats of the ordination of women in the Church of England. Some were drawn to the Byzantine Rite, others to the western rite. They contacted the Patriarchate of Antioch (which had made it known that it would not be opposed to receiving British western rite communities) and, in May 1995, Bishop Gabriel Saliby (vicar of the Patriarch of Antioch in western Europe) went ahead with the diaconal ordination of a first western rite cleric. This initiative seems to have remained without much impact.
Recreating a pre-schism liturgy? The Catholic-Orthodox Church of France
Until now, we have given attention to attempts at purifying a Roman or Anglican rite. The allusion made above in regard to the Celtic rite indicates another possible way, and indeed followed by some partisans of an Orthodox western rite: attempt to find a direct link, going back centuries, to the pre-schism Orthodox heritage. Guettée already worked on a restoration of a Gallican Liturgy, which would have been celebrated in 1875 at the Academy of theology of Saint Petersbourg (without this initiative coming to anything). The most major and known attempt was born in France, within the Catholic Orthodox Church of France (ECOF).
We do not wish to go into its history, which has been told several times, but it is necessary to bring a few stages of this liturgical and ecclesial adventure to mind. The birth of the ECOF resulted from the conjunction of two currents: a group of dissident French Catholics looking for their roots and the will of a few Russians to resurrect the Orthodox tradition in the west.
The first current grouped around Irénée (Louis-Charles) Winnaert (1880-1937), a Catholic priest who left the Roman Church in the aftermath of the Modernist crisis and, having served a few other communities, set up a small independent Catholic Church, but suffered from his isolation.
The second was the Confraternity of Saint Photius, founded in 1925 by eight young emigrated Russians who, far from weeping in the exile, wanted to take advantage of it to proclaim the universality of the Orthodox Church and affirm that “each people, each notion has its personal right in the Orthodox Church, its autocephalous canonical constitution, the safeguard of its customs, its rites, its liturgical language”. It this spirit, the Confraternity set up a “commission for France” from its first year of existence, that envisaged the question of the western liturgy in its different forms.
Bishop Winnaert and representatives from the Saint Photius Confraternity entered into relations in 1927. This was followed by a series of contacts with Orthodox hierarchs, with the support of the Saint Photius Confraternity. This resulted in the decree of Metropolitan Sergius of Moscow of 16th June 1936 accepting the little community and allowing it to keep the western rite (a modified Roman Rite). Article 4 of the decree states: “However, the texts of the services must be progressively purged from expressions and thoughts that would be inadmissible for Orthodoxy ». Article 9 says “the parishes united with the Orthodox Church, using the western rite, shall be designated as the Western Orthodox Church”. The clergy shall wear western liturgical vestments, but may use oriental vestments when they take part in oriental rite Orthodox services.
The little community was received into the Orthodox Church in 1937, whilst Bishop Winnaert was already seriously ill. He died shortly afterwards, having asked for the priestly ordination of one of the members of the Saint Photius Confraternity, Eugraph Kovalevsky (1905-1970), to ensure the future of the Western Orthodox Church (which was later named the Orthodox Church of France). Eugraph Kovalevsky became a bishop in 1964 under the name of Jean de Saint-Denis. In the line of the aspirations already shown in the Saint Photius Confraternity, he undertook liturgical research to try to rediscover pre-schism western rites and celebrated the Liturgy according to the Ancient Rite of the Gauls in Paris in May 1945.
Even before the war, there was a rupture in the budding western rite group. Father Lucien Chambault (1899-1965, who later became a monk under the name of Denis), rector of the parish left by Bishop Winnaert, came into conflict with Father Eugraph Kovalevsky. He wanted to hold onto a revised Roman rite. He then founded a Benedictine-inspired priory in Paris. There were some faithful (even more considering that Father Denis had acquired a reputation as a healer and an exorcist, which brought him many visitors! ), but was unable to keep a stable community of the monks who came to live with him. The western rite parish survived for only two years after the death of Father Denis. According to the observations of Archimandrite Barnabas (Burton), who spent two years as a novice in this community (1960-1962), the western eucharistic rite celebrated “apparently resembled a Catholic Mass in French, and many Catholics came to the chapel for that reason.
The experience led by Eugraph Kovalevsky went in another direction. It still continues, despite many upheavals that marks its existence: rupture with the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1953, a short time in the Russian Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1953-1954, followed by a desert pilgrimage for several years out of any canonical obedience and without a bishop, then an attachment to the Russian Church in Exile in 1959. This was followed in 1966 by another period of independent existence, resulting in the reception of the ECOF into the Patriarchate of Romania in 1972 and the consecration of a new bishop, Father Gilles Bertrand-Hardy, under the name of Germain de Saint-Denis, to succeed the first deceased bishop. Finally they broke with Bucharest in 1993, bringing the ECOF again outside any canonical framework at the time of writing. Furthermore, recently and for serious reasons, many ECOF clerics found they had no choice other than to leave their bishop. The question of their future integration, to our knowledge, is not yet resolved at the time of revising this text (May 2002).
We will not go into a discussion of the reasons that led to these successive ruptures, mentioned in literature of a polemical style. It suffices to state that the main cause does not seem to be the choice of the western rite in itself, but rather various disciplinary questions and other problems that do not need to be mentioned here.
The enterprise of re-creating an western rite in France did not only attract western converts, but aroused the interest of the Russian emigration, which felt that their exile should be the occasion of bringing something to the West.
Father Eugraph was not the only one to undertake such enterprises in those years. A bishop of the Patriarchate of Moscow in France, Bishop Alexis van der Mensbrugghe, who had actively collaborated in the liturgical work of the Orthodox Church of France before taking his distance, published his restoration of the western rite — not only the Gallican rite, but also the Pre-Celestinian Italic rite (the western rite tradition including these two fundamental variants: Gallican and Italic), for, “in all its historical probity, the Gallican rite, though it is more archaic in its first ritual foundation and it its type of euchology, cannot be imposed in Italy”. Bishop Alexis van der Mensbrugghe himself celebrated this liturgy in Italian parishes, wearing western vestments, but nothing seems to have remained of his efforts.
His liturgical work concerns all the services, and not only the eucharistic rite. Father Eugraph called the liturgy according to the ancient Gallic rite the Liturgy of Saint Germanus of Paris, for the letters of that bishop of the 6th century, discovered in the 18th century, represent a precious document for knowing about the ancient Gallic rite. Of course, “the liturgy of the Gallican rite celebrated in France during the first millennium and replaced by the Roman liturgy after the reform of Charlemagne has not come down to us in the form of a complete text.” In the work of restoration undertaken, the western texts have been enriched by some oriental origin elements. The partisans of the ECOF esteem that this would in no case constitute eclectism (the ECOF has several times been accused of going in for “liturgical creation”), but a legitimate compenetration of rites. It is in poetical language that Father Eugraph described the method used to bring the joy of this day into Easter Matins, so marked in Orthodox celebrations:
“Easter Matins in our churches faithfully follow the sober and restrained structure of the Latin rite with its three nocturnes. However, like three petals of a flower thoughtfully folded in on itself, under the action of the joy of the eternal Spring of the Resurrection and as struck by the rays of the sun, the three Latin nocturnes burst forth, blossom and give hospitality to the divinely inspired bees, to the hyms of Byzantium.”
Apart from the symbolic manifestation of such an initiative, why was there a decision to restore a rite rather than choose the Byzantine Rite or the “orthodoxized” Roman Rite? The members of the ECOF answer that the first “has never been celebrated as an organic local rite in western Europe” and would therefore represent “a foreign introduction without roots”. For the second, it is presented in a form that was fixed by the Council of Trent and modified by the successive reforms of the Sovereign Pontiffs, and adopting it would bring them to fall “into a replica of uniatism”. As for accusations of “archaeological reconstructions”, the ECOF replies that it is rather the “rebirth of a latent tradition of the undivided Church which, from the first bishops of Gaul and through some liturgical currents (monastic and others), was providentially revived by the encounter with Orthodox tradition”.
« Practically, it is a question of a new influx of the wealth of the Byzantine Rite and rediscovered Gallican texts into the liturgical structures originating in France and now perfectly capable of being scientifically re-established (…). This is the indispensable and natural procedure for an native Church.”
Orthodoxy and Celtism
The ECOF does not represent the only contemporary attempt at restoring or (re) creating a western rite, but the others happened in the fringes of the Orthodox world. We can especially mention the Patriarchate of Glastonbury and the Celtic Orthodox Church in France. The lives of these two bodies were linked for years and up to a recent date. Claiming the spiritual heritage of an ex-Dominican, Jules Ferette, who would have been consecrated in 1866 as Bishop of Iona by a Jacobite prelate, the group decided in 1944 to “restore the Gallican liturgical rites of western Europe”, the structure of which was not Roman “ and which had much in common with the oriental liturgies.”
“The Glastonbury rite does not pretend to be a reconstruction of any specific Gallican rite, for this would be impossible seeing the many Gallican formularies exist only in the state of fragments or in a Romanized form. The compilers have therefore delved into all the Gallican rites, and where additions were necessary (mostly from the Byzantine rite), have preserved the Gallican ethos and conserved its customs and structures even though the precise words were from another origin.”
Called the “Liturgy of Saint Joseph of Arimathia”, the Glastonbury rite claims to be a neo-Gallican rite in the same category as the “Liturgy of Saint Germanus of Paris”. In France, the Celtic Orthodox Church, then in the British Patriarchate jurisdiction, also published liturgical texts of the “Celtic” or “neo-Celtic”. The source of this group is in the action of Mar Tugdual, in the world Jean-Pierre Danyel (1917-1968), received into the Orthodox Church of France in 1949, then who went his way in the “independent church” world, from 1955 living an eremitical life in Brittany and cultivating a Celtic spirituality — he was canonized by the Celtic Church in August 1996.
It would be too lengthy here to explain the events of attempts to restore a Celtic Orthodox Church. The Patriarchate of Glastonbury no longer exists, since its Bristish Metropolitan was received with some of his priests and faithful into the Coptic Church in 1994. At this occasion, the diocese abandoned the Glastonbury rite and, bringing projects already begun to a conclusion sooner than expected, adopted the Liturgy of Saint James with the blessing of the Coptic Patriarchate. The group in Brittany and the other communities formerly in the Glastonbury jurisdiction, however, remain independent.
Among the attempts to restore ancient rites, we should briefly mention another attempt to restore the Celtic rite on the basis of the Stowe Missal (considered by specialists as the most important document for the study of this rite), on the initiative of Father Kristopher Dowling, who heads a western rite parish in Akron (Ohio).
The Saint Hilarion Monastery in Austin (Texas) has restored the Use of Sarum, celebrated in England before the schism, and publishes very polished editions of the liturgical texts. It is to be noted that this group, with parishes also in England and Serbia, has adopted the Julian calendar.
Without giving any judgment, since the purpose of this panorama is simply to inform, what conclusion can we draw from all these efforts? As a “mobilizing myth”, the ideal of a western Orthodox rite is not lacking in attractiveness. We will without doubt continue to observe attempts in this way, and we cannot exclude the possibility of one of them really finishing up by taking root and remaining. However, this should not hide another reality, in a greater number, that of a slow but growing development of Byzantine rite parishes, in spite of the extreme affirmations of a few western rite partisans, who adhere to a kind of liturgical nationalism as they say that the establishment of the Byzantine Rite would be “an impossibility, an aberration”: “The oriental rite, foreign to France’s spiritual way, is without profound action and can even give the effect of a narcotic, or a kind of toxin.”[sic!] The Byzantine Rite has been marked by the oriental context in which it matured, but that does not seem to present an insurmountable obstacle.
A plurality of rites would also raise the question of the rite to be used in missionary contexts, outside the western world. Local Byzantine Rite communities have emerged in Africa and Bengal, as in other parts of the world. If the western rite became more widely accepted, must it be reserved only for western origin populations, or could its missionary expansion be envisaged? In the context of globalization, the Byzantine Rite seems destined to impose itself increasingly as a universal rite. This does not exclude national inflexions to some practices or the development of particular characteristics in harmony with the spirit of the Orthodox tradition as time goes on and following a natural movement within the local Church.
It is not sure that this would suffice to remove the accumulated dust of a few centuries to find the Orthodox tradition. This indeed supposes more than a confession of Orthodox faith. It does not suffice for High-Church Anglicans or Old Catholics to delete the Filioque in the Creed, recognize only the Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium and hang icons in their churches to become ipso facto Orthodox, as the experience of more than a century shows.
At a theoretical level, most Orthodox bishops would without doubt admit the possible legitimacy of other rites. In practice, so many fundamental questions and experience bring most of them to remain reticent or hostiles to the practice of the western rite in their dioceses.
Sitography [Some of these links may be out of date.]
- The Unofficial Western Rite Home Page
A few articles and links in English.
- Western Rite Vicariate – Patriarchate of Antioch
Simply an introductory text and a glossary.
The site of Saint Mark’s parish in Denver (Colorado), of Anglican origin. Well designed site, interesting material. One of the best sites on the western rite.
- Eglise orthodoxe de France
One of the ECOF sites – there are several others, with more or less identical content.
- The Holy Spirit – The Paraclete – Western Orthodox Church
ECOF site in English.
- Celtic Orthodox Church
Recently published, the official site of the Celtic Church.
- Celtic Orthodox Church – Eparchy of Switzeland
Site of this community in Switzerland.
- Celtic Orthodox Christian Church
Another community aspiring to find the Celtic roots of Christianity, in Akron (Ohio).
- St. Hilarion Monastery
The site of the monastery in Texas – access to interesting mlaterial relating to western liturgies. The monastery uses both Sarum and Byzantine rites. In the jurisdiction of theSynod of Metropolitan Evloghios of Milan (not recognized by the mainstream Orthodox Churches).
- Occidentalis – Forum
Online discussion forum about the western rite. In English. Subscription needed. With particular interest in the Sarum rite (the forum moderator belongs to the Saint Hilarion monastery). The subjects dealt with are essentially liturgical.
Apart from the various persons who have answered our questions as we prepared this article, we would particularly like to thank Abba Seraphim (British Orthodox Church), who generously opened up his library to us, and Fathers Michael Harper and Jonathan Hemmings (British Antiochian Deanery) for the meeting we had with them in London in July 1996.
 The best summary on the subject is probably that presented in a series of articles of Alexis Van Bunnen, “L’Orthodoxie de rite occidental en Europe et aux Etats-Unis. Assessment and perspectives”, in Irénikon, LIV/1, 1981, pp. 53-61 ; LIV/2, 1981, pp. 211-221 ; LIV/3, 1981, pp. 331-350.
 Cf. Paul Meyendorff, Russia, Ritual, and Reform: The Liturgical Reforms of Nikon in the 17th Century, Crestwood (N.Y.), St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991.
 Cf. Antoine Lambrechts, “Le statut ecclésial des Edinovertsy dans l’Eglise russe du XVIIIe au XXe siècle”, in Irénikon, LXIV/4, 1991, pp. 451-467. On the present situation of the edinovertsy: Irénikon, LXVII/1, 1994, pp. 133-136.
 Wilhelm Kahle, Die Begegnung des baltischen Protestantismus mit der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche, Leiden / Köln, E.J. Brill, 1959, chap. 6.
 Ernst Chr. Suttner, « Die Union der sogenannten Nestorianer aus der Gegend von Urmia (Persien) mit der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche », in Ostkirchliche Studien, 44/1, mars 1995, pp. 33-40.
 Jean-Claude Roberti, Les Uniates, Paris / Montréal, Cerf / Fides, 1992, p. 107.
 Cf. H.W. Langford, « The Non-Jurors and the Eastern Orthodox », in Eastern Churches Review, 1/2, automne 1966, pp. 118-131; Germain Ivanoff-Trinadtzaty, L’Eglise russe face à l’Occident, Paris, O.E.I.L., 1991, 1ère partie.
 This correspondence was published by George Williams, The Orthodox Church of the East in the Eighteenth Century. Being the Correspondence Between the Eastern Patriarchs and the Nonjuring Bishops, London, 1868 (reprint: New York, AMS Press, 1970).
 Ibid., p. 33.
 Ibid., pp. 34-35.
 Georges Florovsky, « Russian Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century », in Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vol. 14, Vaduz, Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1989, pp. 110-163 (p. 110).
 Cf. « Une correspondance entre le le baron de Haxthausen et André Mouravieff », in Istina, July-September 1969, pp. 342-369 ; Paul Pierling, Le Prince Gagarine et ses amis, 1814-1882, Paris, Beauchesne, 1996, chap. 10.
 Columba Graham Flegg, “Gathered Under Apostles”. A Study of the Catholic Apostolic Church, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1992, p. 272.
 Petrus Maan, “The Old Catholic Liturgies”, in Gordon Huelin (dir.), Old Catholics and Anglicans, 1931-1981, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 86-95 (pp. 87-88).
 Olga Novikoff, Le Général Alexandre Kiréeff et l’ancien-catholicisme, new ed. expanded, Berne, Librairie Staempfli, 1914.
 Nicolas Zernov, The Church of the Eastern Christians, London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1942, p. 83.
 Mémoire présenté à l’Empereur par le Procureur général du Saint-Synode, le Comte D. Tolstoy, sur l’activité de l’administration ecclésiastique orthodoxe depuis juin 1865 jusqu’à janvier 1866, Paris, Bureau de l’Union chrétienne, 1867, p. 5.
 Ibid., pp. 23-24.
 Cf. Jean-Paul Besse, Un précurseur, Wladimir Guettée, du Gallicanisme à l’Orthodoxie, Lavardac, Monastère Orthodoxe Saint-Michel, 1992.
 Wilhlem Kahle, Westliche Orthodoxie. Leben und Ziele Julian Joseph Overbecks, Leiden / Köln, E.J. Brill, 1968.
 Ibid., p. 21.
 J.J. Overbeck, Die Providentielle Stellung des Orthodoxen Russland und sein Beruf zur Wiederherstellung der rechtgläubigen katholischen Kirche des Abendlands, Halle, 1869, pp. 50-51.
 Ibid., p. 52.
 Ibid., pp. 59-60.
 We find the complete reproduction in the study of de G.H. Thomann, The Western Rite in Orthodoxy : Union and Reunion Schemes of Western and Eastern Churches with Eastern Orthodoxy – A Brief Historical Outline, 3e ed., Nürnberg, private publication, 1995, pp. 51-74.
 J.J. Overbeck, Catholic Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism. A Word about the Intercommunion between the English and the Orthodox Churches, London, Trübner, 1866, pp. 1-2.
 J.J. Overbeck, Die Wiedervereinigung der morgen- und abendländischen Kirche. Ein Rückblick auf der Münchener Altkatholiken-Congress, und ein Vorblick auf die zu lösende Aufgabe. Offener Brief an den Grafen Dimitry Tolstoy, Halle, 1873, p. 3.
 Ibid., p. 22.
 J.J. Overbeck, Die Bonner Unions-Conferenzen, oder Altkatholicismus und Anglikanismus in ihrem Verhältniss zur Orthodoxie. Eine Appellation an die Patriarchen und Heiligen Synoden der orthodox-katholischen Kirche, Halle, 1876, p. 1.
 Ibid., pp. 106-107.
 Ibid., p. 112.
 Ibid., p. 117.
 Florovsky, op. cit., p. 134.
 Russian Observations upon the American Prayer Book, London, Mowbray, 1917, p. 9.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 Ibid., p. 34.
 Constance J. Tarasar (et al.), Orthodox America, 1794-1976. Development of the Orthodox Church in America, Syosset (N.Y.), Orthodox Church in America, 1975, pp. 194-198.
 Michael Trigg (dir.), An Introduction to Western Rite Orthodoxy, Ben Lomond (California), Conciliar Press, 1993, p. 9.
 Diakonia, 5/1, 1970, p. 24.
 Orthodoxy, XII/1, January-February 1969, p. 11.
 Diakonia, 10/2, 1975.
 This number is likely to have increased since then, even though we have no recent statistics. During a visit to Denver (Colorado) in November 2001, we discovered three western rite communities in that town, two using an Anglican tradition liturgy and the other using the Tridentine liturgy in English with a few minor adaptions.
 P.W.S. Schneirla, “The Twain Meet”, in The Word, mai 1993, pp. 3-4.
 Patrick McCauley, « What Is Western-Rite Orthodoxy ? », in The Word, mai 1993, pp. 5-6.
 Orthodox Missal According to the Use of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Stanton (New Jersey), Saint Luke’s Priory Press, 1995, pp. 169-213.
 An edition of the “Rite of Saint Gregory” however contains the Latin-English bilingual text, which leads us to believe it may also be celebrated in Latin (The Missal. A Service Book for the Use of Orthodox Christians, Los Angeles, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, 1991).
 We can read an article of Father Alexey Young explaining his motivations in M. Trigg, op.cit., pp. 5-10.
 Personal letter of Father Alexey Young, August 4, 1996. We thank Father Alexey for having allowed us to quote extracts from this letter.
 Orthodox Outlook, N° 35, April 1991, p. 5.
 In particular (from a favourbale point of view for the ECOF, but abundantly documented) the book of Maxime Kovalevsky, Orthodoxie et Occident. Renaissance d’une Eglise locale. L’Eglise orthodoxe de France, Paris, Carbonnel, 1990.
 Vincent Bourne (pseudonym of Yvonne Winnaert), La Queste de Vérité d’Irénée Winnaert, Genève, Labor et Fides, 1966.
 On the Saint Photius Confraternity, cf. Vincent Bourne, La Divine Contradiction. L’avenir catholique orthodoxe de la France, Paris, Librairie des Cinq Continents, 1975, chap. 7.
 Archimandrite Barnabas, Strange Pilgrimage, Welshpool, Stylite Publishing, 1985, pp. 45-47.
 Ibid., p. 55.
 Missel ou Livre de la Synaxe liturgique approuvé et autorisé pour les églises orthodoxes de rit occidental relevant du Patriarcat de Moscou, Paris, Contacts, 1962, p. 88.
 Cf. Vincent Bourne, La Divine Contradiction. Le chant et la lutte de l’Orthodoxie, Paris, Ed. Présence Orthodoxe, 1978, pp. 495-504.
 Texte latin et traduction française de ces lettres in Présence orthodoxe, N° 34-35, 3rd et 4th quarterlies 1976, pp. 17-37.
 Mgr Jean de Saint-Denis, “Etude critique des lettres de saint Germain de Paris”, in Présence orthodoxe, N° 20-21, 4th quarterly 1972 et 1st quarterly 1973, pp. 19-30.
 For a summary of borrowings from the Byzantine rite, cf. Présence orthodoxe, N° 36, 1st quarter 1977, pp. 82-90.
 Ibid., p. 75.
 M. Kovalevsky, Orthodoxie et Occident, pp. 107-108.
 Maxime Kovalevsky, Retrouver la Source oubliée. Paroles sur la liturgie d’un homme qui chante Dieu, Paris, Ed. Présence Orthodoxe, 1984, pp. 29-30
 Seraphim Newman-Norton, Fitly Framed Together. A Summary of the History, Beliefs and Mission of the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, Glastonbury, Metropolitical Press, 1976, p. 11.
 The Divine Liturgy for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist According to the Glastonbury Rite, Commonly Called the Liturgy of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, 6e éd., Glastonbury, Metropolitical Press, 1979, p. 1.
 Abba Seraphim “The Liturgy of Saint James”, in Glastonbury Bulletin, N° 93, juillet 1996, pp. 102-202.
 Celtic Missal. The Liturgy and Diverse Services from the Lorrha (“Stowe”) Missal, new ed., Akron, Ascension Western Rite Orthodox Church, 1996.
 Cf. Old Catholic Prayer Book, Austin, St. Hilarion Press, 1991.
 G. Bornand, “ L’Orthodoxie occidentale”, in Cahiers Saint-Irénée, N° 12, Aug-Sept. 1958, pp. 1-22 (p. 14).
 Ibid., p. 12.
 Thus, in April 1996, Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco (Greek Archdiocese) said that he of course recognized the western rite clergy of other jurisdictions as Orthodox, but that he did not support such initiatives, for liturgical reasons (the rites have no direct continuity with those of the western Church of the first centuries, but are largely marked by the debates of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation) and pastoral reasons (this increases the fragmentation of the Orthodox Church in America and creates liturgically isolated small groups). The Antiochian western rite clergy were therefore not authorized to take part in liturgies in the parishes of the diocese in western vestments, and the Greek diocesan clergy were not allowed to participate in western rite liturgical celebrations. Father Charles Connely, rector of the Saint Mark’s Western Rite Parish (Denver), has responded to this position in the brochure Lux Occidentalis (also available on the Internet in PDF format).
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