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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Which Rite is Right?

Too many people approach Western Rite in the Eastern Orthodox Church as a theoretical exercise. One often hears (pro and con) statements about historical continuity or non-continuity, Frankish-influence issues, minutiae (e.g., what kind of vestments Eastern rite clergy should wear, when attending Western rite services), and so forth.

Oft bypassed by the non-Western-rite observer is that WR Orthodoxy faces more immediate, practical concerns: how to acquire and adorn a chapel; how to get vestments made; how to marshal a choir; and, of course, what to use for liturgical texts.

In the Antiochian Western rite in the U.S., this latter question has been largely decided and is currently settled. It is an essentially dual approach (Tridentine-Roman and traditional Anglican), avoiding pre-Reformation liturgics on the one hand, and the latest modern developments on the other.

In the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the liturgical question has not been settled definitively. Usages currently blessed include three versions of the Roman rite (Tridentine, Sarum, and Mt.-Royal) and traditional Anglican. None of these has been identified as an exclusively prescribed usage, and there has been no attempt to impose liturgical conformity. That might be a good thing, since it gives the hierarchy time to observe and assess what works and what doesn't.

The Romanian Church has parishes using a theoretical reconstruction of the lost Gallican rite, a usage kept in France in the 1960s under Abp. St. John Maximovitch. This represents yet another strain of liturgical usage. And there is potential for use of the Mozarabic rite of Spain, the Ambrosian rite of Aquileia, as well as liturgies of the Roman-Catholic religious orders.

Speaking of St. John Maximovitch, he blessed for use both Gallican and Roman rites.

It must be admitted that the "Which Rite" question remains unanswered, if one is speaking of the Orthodox Church as a whole.

note: No anonymous commenting allowed.


Michael Oleksy said...

Dear Father,

In Eastern rite, as you know, there also is some kind of diversity: the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is served everywhere for most of the year, the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in an 'Old Rite' version is served in one ROCOR parish for most of the year, the Liturgy of St Basil the Great is served everywhere a few times a year, the Liturgy of St James is served annually in many places, and the Liturgy of St Mark is served annually at one ROCOR monastery.

> ... three versions of the Roman rite (Tridentine, Sarum, and Mt.-Royal) ...

Shouldn't Mt.-Royal use be considered a version of the Tridentine version?

> ... The Romanian Church has parishes using a theoretical reconstruction of the lost Gallican rite, a usage kept in France in the 1960s under Abp. St. John Maximovitch.

As far as I know, none of these parishes is under the Romanian Church anymore. Most of them are divided between two non-canonical jurisdictions and a few are under the Serbian Church as bi-ritual parishes using - as far as Liturgy is concerned - the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (primarily) and the Liturgy of St Germanus (occasionally), and - as far as Office is concerned - the Benedictine Office (primarily) and the Byzantine Office (occasionally). At least this is how I understand the situation.


Michael Oleksy said...

The Liturgy of St Mark is served annually at one more place (apart from Jordanville): the Greek Seminary at Brookline, MA.

Michael Oleksy said...

P.S. 2

> ... And there is potential for use of the Mozarabic rite of Spain, the Ambrosian rite of Aquileia ...

There is also potential for use of the Liturgy of St. John the Divine (Stowe/Lorrha Missal).

Fr. David said...

Actually the "Mt. Royal Use" is culled from various pre-Schism sources (old Roman and Lyon mostly. If you compare the text and ceremonial to the Tridentine you will see it differs in many respects. Much of the militaristic fussiness of the Tridentine is removed. Like the earlier Roman Rite it has little of the later Tridentine Offertory rite. The Bread and Wine are simply transferred to the Altar during the singing of the Offertory verse (or at a Simple service the priest pours Wine and water into the chalice, blessing them with a simple prayer and then on to the original Offertory prayer -- the Secret.) The Mt. Royal was an attempt at recovering a generic Western Rite Use for a specific Monastic community back in 1963. It was originally blessed for use by Abp Dositheus of the Moscow Patriarchate. Later it was also blessed for use by ROCOR (I think around 1974 or so). It is taylor-made for small chapels/situations. Having assisted at it first as a layman, then as a deacon and finally as a priest I can vouch for its Orthodox "feel" and dignity.
Like the Tridentine, the "ideal" is Solemn "High" Mass but I don't think Mt. Royal has been so celebrated since early days at St. Nicholas Russian Cathedral in NY (when Dom Augustine Whitfield, Fr. James Hroblak, (now) Fr. Benedict Tallent and others were holding regular services there). These days it is hard to find and assemble priest,deacon,subdeacon etc. in one place for a WRITE Liturgy.


You may see photos of a recent WEstern Rite Solemn celebration on the ROCOR Western Rite English website.

Michael Oleksy said...

Thank you, Fr David, for that clarification.

If I may come back to what I wrote earlier: I have recently found out that there actually ARE some post-St John Maximovitch parishes under the Patriarchate of Romania and their situation is similar to those which are under the Serbian Orthodox Church (bi-ritual, primarily Eastern rite, Western rite - occasionally, when celebrating days of some important Western saints).

David said...

Dear Michael Oleksy,

May I ask how you found out the information you did regarding certain Romanian and Serbian parishes making us of the lost Gallican rite restored by St. John Maximovich? I should like to contact some of those doing so.

Fr. David Meinzen

David said...

Michael Oleksy,

I came across this dialog while searching for usages of the St. Germanus Liturgy, which I find to be very beautiful (and remarkable that its restoration was under the supervision of St. John of San Fran). May I ask, how did you find out that there are parishes using this Liturgy under the Romanian and Serbian Patriarchates (that are bi-ritual as you describe), and can you put me in touch with any of them. I would greatly appreciate it.

Fr. David (Irenaeus) Meinzen
(a priest serving in the military chaplaincy under the OCA)

David said...

Glory to Jesus Christ!
I am new at this blogging stuff, so I don't really know how it all works and don't know if my previous two attempts at leaving a "comment" (question, actually) worked. I am interested in learning more about the parishes under the Romanians and Serbians that are "bi-ritual" and celebrate some of the time with the St. Germanus Liturgy blessed by St. John Maximovich. I don't know if your response to this post comes up on this blog, or if you only email me or what. Please email me at Thank you!
In Christ our Lord and Master,
Fr. David Irenaeus Meinzen

MichaƂ Oleksy said...

Dear Father,

Please, forgive me for not responding for such a long time. I haven't been around... I will answer your question via email.