Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus: Patriarch Alexander III

Today marks the repose of HH Alexander III (Tahan), the 167th Patriarch of Antioch. In addition to reviving the churches, monasteries, and seminary of the patriarchate around the world, HH Alexander III approved the establishment of the Western Rite throughout the patriarchate.

The founding of the Western Rite Vicariate -- unlike nearly every other event in WRO history -- can be seen as nearly a series of happy coincidences. Fr. Paul Schneirla visited France, where he felt no particular attraction to the "Gallican Liturgy" celebrated within L'ECOF, but he happened to visit the parish of Dom Denis Chambault in Paris. The Orthodox Benedictine monk's reverent celebration of the Liturgy of St. Gregory (the so-called "Tridentine" Mass) and Benedictine Hours so moved him that upon his return to America, he asked Met. ANTONY Bashir about the possibility of a similar Western Rite within Antioch. Fr. Schneirla says he merely raised the eventual potentiality; the question was more theoretical than actual. Met. ANTONY queried HH Patriarch ALEXANDER III, who -- to Fr. Schneirla's surprise -- sent in return a copy of the Russian ukase on the Western Rite and tasked the archdiocese with its implementation in North America. Thus was born the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (to the rejoicing of men and angels).

Fr. Schneirla's question could scarcely have come a moment later. His Holiness, in consultation with hierarchs in other autocephalous Orthodox churches, authorized the Western Rite on May 31, 1958. He was translated on June 17, 1958. His full legacy -- not just the Western Rite -- remains with us today, and undoubtedly mulitiplied his crowns in Heaven.
Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things,
I will make thee ruler over many things, saith the Lord. -- Antiphon the
May every Western Rite Christian live in a manner worthy of his faith in us. May he rest in peace, and may we poor sinners be aided by his prayers below.

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