Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Origins of the Milan Synod Western Rite

From the blog Oremus, a study of the Milan Synod's Western Rite by Fr. Hieromonk Aidan of
Holy Protection Orthodox Church (ROCOR, Eastern rite), Austin, TX.

The Milan Synod gained a lot of respect for its phenomenal scholarly work on the Western rite. Certainly, no other body from 1870 to the present has published or made available even one tenth of the rich liturgical materials which Milan Synod publishers made available to modern, English-speaking people from 1988 to 2004. These materials represent an authentic liturgical tradition of the Orthodox West. That is, they are pre-Reformation forms of the Roman rite and represent an intact preservation of the traditions of worship of Western Europeans' Orthodox Christian ancestors. Making this world accessible to modern-day faithful of the Orthodox Church was a daring, controversial, and astounding accomplishment, entirely unique within the Orthodox Western Rite world.

So where did this historic, authentic, pre-Reformation Western rite come from? Who in modern times first began to pray using such texts? Where did the concept itself come from?

From within Russian Orthodoxy, to be exact. A young Yankee fellow named John Robert Shaw converted to the Holy Orthodox Faith at the age of sixteen. Graduating at the top of his class from Jordanville Seminary in the 1960s, he was ordained priest in short order. An accomplished Latinist, Fr. John had come into contact in the 1960s both with Western Rite Orthodoxy and Old Rite Russians. And he discovered there was a connection: Russian Old Believers who emigrated from Turkey in about 1963, and wound up in America, personally relayed to Fr. John their eyewitness accounts of the use of Western rite within the Russian Old Believer community (the "Liturgy of St. Peter"). Seeing the beautiful worship of the Old Rite Russians, worship conducted largely off hand-written pages instead of modern printed books, a lightbulb went off in Fr. John's head. Why couldn't the same be done with the Western Rite? Why would one need to base an Orthodox WR on modern Roman-Catholic books, when one could base it on pre-Reformation manuscripts showing an intact Western Orthodox service? Using such material for WR worship would resolve difficulties of the West's radically-altered liturgical culture, of her doctrinal errors creeping into texts, of heretical psychology in the modern books. (This is my own characterisation of Fr. John's thoughts on the matter; his own words can be read on the Occidentalis website.)

And thus there was born the concept of Sarum Rite Orthodox services. At the very same time, the influence of Holy Transfiguration Monastery was expanding in the ROCOR. Western Rite was on the "outs and outs." A new type of rigorism and Orthodox ultra-purity was taking shape and spreading like wildfire amongst ROCOR converts who were English-speaking only. It was as if Fr. John had found a beautiful rose plant, but there was no soil for it...

Complete article here.

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