Monday, August 04, 2014

Legitimacy of Pre-Schism Western Orthodox Services

Father Joseph Gagliano- JTO Guest Contributor

The last 100 years have witnessed an increase in the use of “Western Rite” services in the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, many of these “western rites” are not Orthodox! There is a difference between the abuses of “western rite” and what is legitimately “Western Orthodox” – the latter being the service texts in use in the Patriarchate of Rome long before the great schism of 1054.

As an example, the Book of Common Prayer is commonly passed off as a legitimate Orthodox prayer book in the Antiochian Archdiocese of America, via the Lancelot Andrewes Press. In our Metropolia, we follow the guidance of the Holy Fathers. Our Western service texts are not “Western Rite,” but are properly “Western Orthodox” – a much needed distinction, as our texts date back to the 8th and 9th Centuries (roughly).

If the west was truly Orthodox prior to the great schism of 1054, then it stands to reason that these services can be used by Orthodox Christians today; i.e., that they are Orthodox. The Eastern Churches had no problem with them before the Schism, as evidenced by the Fourth Council of Constantinople:

Every Church has certain old usages which it has inherited. One should not quarrel and argue about them. Let the Roman Church observe its usages; this is legitimate. But let also the Church of Constantinople observe certain usages which it has inherited from old times. Let it be likewise so in the Oriental sees. . . . Many things would have not happened if the Churches had followed this recommendation in the past. - Fourth session, Council, 17, 489 - Council of Constantinople IV, 879/880

Unfortunately, in our era, the error called “phyletism” blinds many members of the Eastern Churches. The argument against Western Orthodox services goes like this: “It’s not Orthodox” – and when asked why, the reply is: “It’s not Eastern.” Because it’s not Greek, or Russian, (insert ethnicity), then it isn’t Orthodox?

The question remains valid, and the answer is likewise valid: were the Western Christians, prior to 1054, Orthodox or not?

The mercy and peace of the Lord be always with you!
+ Fr Joseph 

[Father Joseph Gagliano is priest at Saint Lawrence Orthodox Christian Mission in Alabama where both Eastern and Western practices are observed.]

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