Time Magazine on the Western Rite
A fascinating article from the annals of Time Magazine -- dated May 1, 1964. (You can read the original article here OR here.)
If only the Church had listened to "Rev. William Schneirla" (that's "Father Paul" to us). His words are as true today as when they were spoken -- given the multicultural melting pot of society, more so. Aspiring tribal religions will not long endure in this culture, and they will certainly never enlighten many souls within it; only a transcendent and charitable expression of the Catholic faith delivered to all nations and cultures can do that.
Eastern but Western
If, by chance, a Roman Catholic walked into Sunday worship at the Church of the Divine Wisdom in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he would feel right at home. The priest at the altar would be wearing alb, chasuble, maniple and stole, the familiar Eucharistic vestments of the Western church; the liturgy he celebrated, except for the use of English instead of Latin, would be almost identical with the Roman Mass. But the worshippers at the church are not Roman Catholics, or even High-Church Anglicans; they are members of the little-known Western Rite of the Orthodox Church.
Keeping the Mass. The Western Rite is an Orthodox attempt to restore the cultural balance of East and West that existed in their church before Rome —as the East believes — fell away into schism in 1054. In doctrine, Western Orthodox believers follow the bearded patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow, but their way of worship is the Mass rather than the lengthy Divine Liturgies of the East. The Western Rite missal has been purged of Roman "heresies," such as supererogation, the belief that man can acquire grace through the merits of saints as well as through Christ's redemption. Communion is given in the form of bread and wine instead of bread alone. The Nicene Creed is recited without a major theological cause of the schism, the filioque clause, thereby adhering to Orthodox teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.
Founder of the Western Rite was the Rev. Joseph Overbeck, a scholarly German priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1865. Overbeck had only a handful of followers, but he prepared a revision of the Roman missal and outlined a theological defense of the Western Rite idea that eventually convinced Orthodox church leaders. In 1926, the Orthodox Church of Poland accepted the allegiance of some Polish Catholics, who were allowed to keep the Mass and most of their liturgical customs. In the U.S., most of the Western Rite Orthodox belong to the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese, which drew up rules in 1958 for a Christian who wanted to join the church.
More than Tribal. Western Orthodoxy has been slow to catch on: there are only 3,000 Western Rite Orthodox in about 50 scattered parishes around the world. Even many Eastern Orthodox regard their Western Rite brethren as second-class Christians. But the Rev. William Schneirla, a top-ranking Orthodox theologian from St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York, argues that the Western Rite "is in some respects the most important recent enterprise of Orthodoxy." It gives force to Orthodoxy's claim to be a truly ecumenical church rather than a "tribal religion" and provides "a new instrument for the reawakening missionary thrust of Orthodoxy." Others believe that the new church may help preserve the faith for future generations of U.S. Orthodox who find themselves unsympathetic to the Old World culture and mentality of their fathers.
Labels: WR History