What is the Western Rite and is it Orthodox?
The Consecration of Bishop Jean-Nectaire of Paris by St. John Maximovitch
(Side Note: One of the Acolytes seen in the background is a very young Paul Loukianoff, the future Archbishop Peter of Chicago)
WHAT IS THE WESTERN RITE?
The Holy Catholic Church; otherwise known as the Orthodox Church, was united across all of the Holy Roman Empire. From Byzantium in the east all the way to Rome in the west and even in the British Isles and what is now modern-day France. The Church existed in a way that was united in doctrine and theology for over a thousand years after the day of Pentecost in AD 33.
The Liturgy, or “work of the people” varied from east to west due to the cultural and societal makeup of the regions in which the Church existed. In the West, the Liturgy, like the Latin language, tended to be terse and Patristic. Yet slight differences were reflected in the Liturgies of Rome, Milan, Toledo, and Lyons. The differences came to be known as rites: Ambrosian, Roman, Mozarabic, and Gallican and were named after Saints Ambrose, Gregory, and Germanus. Further, within the Roman Rite there developed Uses of which Sarum is perhaps best known.
The Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire (*Byzantium or Constantinople) primarily celebrated the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great which, reflecting the Eastern culture continued to evolve. Each of these Liturgies contained the essential elements that were required to be canonically correct and united in theology, but differed in appearance, hymnody, and language. Much was borrowed between them in the early years less in the latter.
The Great Schism
In AD 1054, what has become known as the Great Schism occurred, thus ending effective communication and cooperation between the Church in the east and the west. The Church in the west began to operate as its own distinct entity that was separate from the Christian Church in the east.
It became known to the world as the Latin Church whereas the church in the east became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church.
It is noteworthy to remember that the Western Rite was almost a thousand years old when Christianity was introduced to the people of Kievan Rus, modern day Russia.
The Western-Rite of the Orthodox Church is a concerted effort by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia among others to pastorally respond to the numerous requests of Western Christians to re-establish the Western Church as it existed prior to the Great Schism.
It is an outreach to peoples who have grown up in countries that have been populated by Protestant and Roman Catholic communities to offer the fullness of the Faith as it existed prior to the schism.
Many people in America and other countries who would not normally come into the Orthodox Church due to the uniqueness of the worship style of the Eastern liturgies, or the ethnic cultures, may find something comfortably familiar in the Western-Rite liturgies, while retaining the unity in sound doctrine and theology of the Orthodox Church.
Father Aidan Keller chanting at the 2015 ROCOR Western Rite Conference