Thursday, April 09, 2009

OCA's Met. JONAH Acknowledges the Western Rite

Some of you may be following the back-and-forth between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and North American Orthodox hierarchs; a representative of the Phanar invited all churches of the "diaspora" to "submit" to Constantinople, and His Eminence Metropolitan JONAH, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), responded by citing the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in North American Orthodoxy. Others can focus on the political aspects of this tug-of-war (and have), but we must not pass over another passage of His Eminence's sermon last Sunday. Met. JONAH spoke at St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas on April 5, 2009, where he said:
We are a single community of Orthodox Christians, and we are the local Church in Dallas, the local Church in Northeast Texas. It doesn't matter that we have all these various administrative jurisdictions, ultimately, because we gather together as one Body, to pray with one mind and one heart, to celebrate the same Eucharist, to come to the same chalice. It doesn't matter if we Eastern Rite or Western Rite, doesn't matter the language in the service is, but...we are one Church. We are one local Church, and I might add, we are one indigenous Church. (Emphasis added.)
That is, Met. JONAH specifically affirmed the authenticity of Western Rite Orthodoxy. More specifically, members of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate in northeast Texas were in attendance at this sermon. Thus, the head of the OCA said the Western Rite as presently practiced within the AWRV is Orthodox and a part of the indigenous Orthodox Church in North America.

This is significant, since some in the OCA may be ignorant of or antipathetic toward the Western Rite (and these are hardly mutually exclusive). However, affirming the Western Rite and specifically the approach of the AWRV is in keeping with the views — not only of some Russian New-Martyrs, St. Tikhon (Bellavin), St. Nicholas of Japan, and St. Raphael of Brooklyn — but of the OCA's own founding hierarch. Abp. Platon (Rozhdestvensky), who would go on to found the Metropolia, said to a group of Western Christians in 1911: "When we agree concerning dogmas, there will be no need to speak of rites. They will not prevent us from being one in Christ and having the same belief in Christ."

As I noted when he was ordained, Met. JONAH is a former Episcopalian, and may have some understanding of Western prayer and spirituality. Whatever his personal experience, he has made clear in his remarks that the Western Rite has a future in his vision of a unified Orthodox Church in North America, as it did in the original under the Russian Church. You can hear the whole sermon here:

(Hat tip: Dom James for calling attention to the speech, and Rod Dreher for running the full text)

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