Δευτέρα, 5 Μαΐου 2014

To The Native Orthodox Of Western Europe

 Western Orthodox Saints-The Orthodoxy in Western World

Orthodox England


A month after the asassination at Sarajevo, on 29 July 1914 Tsar Nicholas II sent an urgent but friendly personal telegram to Kaiser Wilhelm, suggesting that the ‘Austro-Serbian conflict’ be settled peacefully at the International Tribunal in the Hague. The Kaiser, set on war, did not even trouble himself to reply. The scene was set for the outbreak of the Great War, and all the events that were to flow from it, from the Second World War to the Cold War.

Today, exactly ninety years on, Europe is no longer physically at war, but spiritually it is war-weary, utterly enfeebled. After two World Wars, in fact two European Wars spread worldwide, and a whole century without repentance, Western Europe drifts. Whatever the land, whatever the language, whatever the culture, Western Europe has all but lost its God, and therefore its spiritual meaning, and therefore its moral purpose. Like a rudderless ship, Western Europe continues to cruise aimlessly through the oceans of spiritual and moral ambivalence into a Dark Age of its own making.


The Dechristianization of Western Europe is obvious from its contemporary way of life. It is obvious from reading any newspaper or watching any television programme in Western Europe. It is obvious from the sight of thousands of former Protestant and Catholic churches all over Western Europe, already converted to secular uses, or else newly up for sale. Little wonder that the political leaders of the ‘European Union’ refused to mention the Christian roots of Western Europe in their recently-written Constitution for that Union, for most of them seem not even to have known that these roots exist.

In practical terms, the loss of these roots has meant not only that churches and monasteries have emptied, but also therefore that criminal behaviour, overpopulated prisons, immorality and depravity have become commonplace. For example, in 2003 in ‘Protestant’ England and Wales, there were 180,000 abortions, in ‘Catholic’ France, with a population 7,000,000 higher, there were over 220,000 victims of the abortion laws. The rest of Western Europe is little different. From Ibiza to Cyprus, from Edinburgh to Hamburg, from Naples to Nottingham, from Lisbon to Lyons, from Cork to Copenhagen, from Pisa to Prague, from Athens to Amsterdam, from Malmo to Madrid, young Europeans are left to drunkenness and depravity in their night-clubs, knowing no other values. Judge not their spiritual futility: their elders gave them no other values, for the word ‘sin’ is not politically correct. Amid the idolization of empty ‘celebrities’, the moral aimlessness, hedonism and trivia of modern Western European societies, who can wonder that the fastest-growing religion by far in Western Europe is Islam?

In fact we are witnessing a historic turning-point, we are witnessing the death of the Second Millennium, the deaths, or rather suicides, of the historic forms of both Catholicism and Protestantism. A thousand years of Western European history is melting away before us, because Western Europe has lost its Faith and so its moral authority and significance. The problem is that Faith is being replaced with the spiritual emptiness of neo-pagan secular values. As one French writer put it many years ago: ‘It is not that when Europe stops believing in Something, it will believe in Nothing, it will believe in Anything’.

Having desacralized Sunday by allowing Saturday evening masses and communion virtually without confession and fasting, Roman Catholicism is now dying out for lack of priests. Besieged by pedophile and sodomite scandals, it is also going financially bankrupt. As its frail and sick Pope dies, it is clear that if it is to survive at all in Western Europe, it will have to agree to radical changes. And the dead end of forty years of protestantizing changes that it has imposed on itself since the 1960s will not suffice. The changes will have to be more radical than that. They will have to have spiritual depth, going back beyond the recent past to the Orthodox practices of the First Millennium. Repentance and humility for a thousand years of pride and error will have to lead the way.

On the other hand, Protestant Europe has no reason to rejoice. It pride and error have been of the same stamp. Having dropped life-destroying puritanism and proclaimed the death of God, adopting secular humanism as its basic belief in the 1960s, it too is dying out. For example, the latest scheme for the survival of the Anglican Church is that it should go into voluntary schism, dividing itself into one part which opposes women-priests and practising homosexual clergy, and another which accepts them. In this way the outward semblance of all-important illusion of unity will continue. As regards Lutheranism and Calvinism, Baptism and Methodism, all these groups have contracted faster than any other. Puritanism is dead; secular humanism does not need a church to attend.


However, there is another Europe. Indeed, in recent decades some Western Europeans have looked with hope to that other Europe - Orthodox Eastern Europe.

For fifteen years since the miracle of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe have been attempting to restore that which Communism destroyed. Their first task was to restore their populations to nominal Orthodoxy, with tens of millions of baptisms. Then they had to proceed to the restoration of thousands of church buildings. Immense progress has been made in all these areas. However, although the heritage of Communism is steadily being outwardly transformed, it will take generations to overcome its bitter heritage.

Thus their second task is to provide churches for the huge numbers of Eastern European immigrants to foreign countries, especially in Western Europe. This task has also meant regularizing relations with their own anti-Communist refugee diasporas of 1917 and 1945. This in particular has been the task of the Russian Church, for millions of young Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians have fled to the West to escape the starvation and misery of the post-Communist economy, many young women ending up as prostitutes in the hellholes of Western Europe.

The Paris-based Patriarchal Archbishop in charge of negotiations with the old Diaspora, is Innocent of Korsun, who is responsible for Western Europe. Although he only speaks Russian, he has told his parishioners and clergy in Western Europe, not to expect to see him this year. This is honest, for he is obliged to spend most of his time in Moscow. The same is true of the Russian Church of the Diaspora, known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, whose Russian clergy and parishioners are much preoccupied with matters of reunification.

The Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe are also confronted with a third task, the far more difficult task of converting vast nominal Orthodox populations into practising Orthodox. Many are baptized, but few are taught. Thanks to the imposition of ‘Communist morality’, the simple morality of the Ten Commandments appears to be little known and little practised among these populations. Organized crime, abortion, adultery, prostitution, theft, bribery, corruption, superstition and black magic appear to be ‘normal’ in countries fallen victim to the post-Communist spiritual void.

It is estimated that the number of practising Orthodox in these countries may be as low as only 1% of the total nominal population. For example, of a Moscow population of ten million, only 100,000 were present in the relatively few churches there at Easter 2004. One can imagine how few of these people had actually had confession and then taken communion. Orthodox may have a sacramental life, but for most Orthodox the sacraments remain theoretical, they still do not have recourse to confession and communion.

In the Balkans, the situation is no better. In Bulgaria, where there are said to be over 6,000,000 Orthodox, only 600 Orthodox churches are open – one church for every ten thousand. Moreover, these churches are in schism with each other and the government-supported side has recently invaded the 250 churches of the other side with police, assaulting clergy and people alike.

Though led by a saintly Patriarch, the Serbian Church has hardly begun recovering from fifty years of Communist persecution and the disastrous atheist Balkan Wars of the last decade. Its great recent saints, Justin of Chelije and Nicholas of Ochrid, were exiled. It is said that in the large cities of Serbia, only 5% of the population is actually baptized – the blinded victims of Communist anti-Christian ideology. Even among the baptized it is rare to take communion more than twice a year.

In Romania, the foreign visitor is met at the frontier with the notice: ‘Do not bribe the customs officials’. Yes, Romanian Orthodox do go on pilgrimages. At a recent pilgrimage of 50,000, one small chalice was quite adequate for the tiny number of communicants. The sole desire of the majority of young Romanians is to emigrate in order to escape mass unemployment, grinding poverty and the corruption of their ‘Democratic’ ‘ex’-Communist political masters.

Finally, in Non-Sovietized but heavily Westernized Greece, where churches are also little attended, the main interest at present is the launch of the Neo-Pagan Games, which will undoubtedly be spiritually injurious to the Church. The cult of the body is not the cult of the spirit. And here too there are internal divisions and disputes, especially between Athens and Constantinople.

It is clear that the Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe are not only inward-looking at present, but indeed have to be inward-looking and all our sympathy is with them. This introversion is necessary so that these nations can heal themselves from the Communist epidemic, from which they are still deeply suffering. Moreover, this introversion is shared by other Orthodox in the Middle East, who are much preoccupied with the effects of militant Judaism, supported by Western ‘Crusaders’, Islamic fanaticism and Arab nationalism in that part of the world. But where does this leave Western Orthodox, the native Orthodox of Western Europe, who in effect have been told: ‘We have no time or means for you now – save yourselves!’


Now is the time when Western European Orthodox seem largely to have been left to their own devices: ‘Here is a priest who speaks your language. I have given him an antimension. I have no service-books, no vestments, no church, and no money to give you. I have done what I can for you. I have nothing more to give you. Do not contact me. Now go and organize yourselves’. For some, the results of this seeming abandonment are negative.

Firstly, there are the renovationists who, falling victim to the temptation from the left, greet the distraction of the Mother-Churches as a release from the Cross of their Faith. They take the view that they are now free to give up the struggle for authentic Orthodoxy. They say: ‘Let us merge with the vast but often empty Non-Orthodox structures which survive in Western Europe. We can water down our Faith, forsake the Orthodox calendar, take down the icon-screens, give up all services apart from Sunday liturgies, abandon confession, fasting and all other Orthodox practices, relying on the goodwill of Non-Orthodox’. In effect they are becoming Uniatized. Many appear to be falling into this temptation with this year’s series of Congresses and Conferences in Western Europe, but they are falling into apostasy. Catholicization and Protestantization are not solutions.

Secondly, there are those who, falling victim to the temptation from the right, greet the establishment of new ethnic Orthodox parishes as a release from the Cross of their Mission. They take the view that they are now free to give up the struggle for native-language Orthodoxy. They say: ‘Let us merge with the existing ethnic Orthodox structures which already exist and which are now expanding in Western Europe. We will abandon the hundred-year struggle to translate all the Orthodox services into the languages of Western Europe, from English to Italian, from Portuguese to German, from Spanish to Swedish, from Norwegian to Welsh, from Dutch to Danish, from French to Breton. We will pretend to be Russian or Greek’. But it was not God’s Will that we be born Russian or Greek. Russification and Hellenization are not solutions.

There is of course a third way, the royal way. Falling away neither to the left or right, we can suffer together with our spiritual compatriots in Eastern Europe, continuing the struggle to be faithful to overworked bishops and authentic Orthodoxy and, at the same time, revive the ancient Orthodoxy of the West. This is the way which we choose. 


‘Save yourselves’. But salvation is impossible without God, with Whom all things are possible. And salvation is impossible without the help of the Saints of God. Therefore, if we are determined to save ourselves, then we must first follow in the footsteps of the models God has given us in our own lands. We Western Orthodox are called to follow in the footsteps of the Saints of the West, of the Holy Apostles Peter and St Paul, of St Irenaeus and St Justin, of St Sophia and St Tatiana, of St Felicity and St Agnes, of St Pancras and St Januarius, of St Agatha and St Lucy, of St Denis and St Julian, of St Cyprian and St Monica, of St Ursula and St Afra, of St Alexis and St Ambrose, of St Alban and St Genevieve, of St Hilary and St Remi, of St Martin and St Benedict, of St John Cassian and St Vincent of Lerins, of St Clotilde and St Odile, of St Patrick and St Columban, of St Maurice and St Gall, of St Leo the Great and St Gregory the Great, of St Vincent of Spain and St Ildefonsus, of St Theodore of Tarsus and St Cuthbert, of St Martin of Rome and St Rupert of Salzburg, of St Clement and St Boniface, of St Bede and St Zacharias, of St Oswald and St Anschar, of St Edmund and St Edward, of St Hallvard and St Olaf, and now of the martyred St Elizabeth and St John the Wonderworker.

The path of the Western Saints is the true wealth of the West. It is the path from spiritual poverty to spiritual riches. It is the path of humility, and the only path of reparation for all that has happened in the last thousand years of spiritual loss. When the Saints of Western Europe are known in life and venerated in love, then, and only then, will the West be able to say that it has Christian roots and that it lives by those roots.

Only in uncovering its past, can Western Europe recover its present, and then discover its future. Then, and only then, will the voice of the native Orthodox of Western Europe be heard in the worldwide choir of Orthodoxy and there find its rightful place. But for this to happen, those who follow Orthodox Tradition in Western Europe should first begin to work together, veering neither to left nor to right. Since it was St John the Wonderworker who came from Russia and first moved forward the veneration of the Saints of Western Europe in their Orthodox context, it is our suggestion that Orthodox of all nationalities and backgrounds who are interested in working together in such a way, should do so within an Association of St John the Wonderworker.

May the Lord, through the prayers of all the Saints of the West, inspire us to work together in faithfulness to Orthodox Tradition according to His Will. 

Fr Andrew Phillips,
Completed in the Church of
Notre Dame de Pritz, c.710,
Laval, France

 Western Orthodoxy


Both eastern and western Christians, on first hearing of Western Orthodoxy, often ask such questions as “Who are these people?” or “Why haven’t I heard of them before?”

First, who are Western Orthodox Christians? Simply, they are those Christians of the West who have discovered the truth of Orthodoxy and who have embraced the Orthodox faith and now worship and practice their Orthodox faith according to the venerable and ancient traditions of the West – traditions whose roots go back to that time when the Western Church was still fully Orthodox. Many westerners who have embraced Orthodoxy have known it only in its eastern forms, primarily because these have been the predominantly visible forms of Orthodoxy in the West.

Particularly in North America, with its manifold Eastern Orthodox Churches sprung from foreign lands, a westerner seeking Orthodoxy almost inevitably has turned to a Church whose expression of Orthodoxy is eastern and Byzantine. For thousands of western Christians seeking refuge in Christ’s true Church, these eastern Churches have provided a home. These Christians have welcomed and embraced the liturgical, cultural, and (often) linguistic forms of Byzantine Christianity, and of them little further need be said here, except to note the fervor of their faith and commitment, and their eagerness to share the spiritual treasure of Orthodoxy with their fellow westerners.

Some other western Christians, seeking a home in Christ’s holy Orthodox Church, have traveled by a different route. These Christians, convinced of the fullness of truth of the Orthodox faith, have been encouraged by those Orthodox hierarchs whom they approached, to retain and use the western liturgical, cultural, and linguistic heritage they have been used to, but purified of any elements inconsistent with the Orthodox faith. These Christians, fully Orthodox in their faith, but following a traditional western observance blessed by the Orthodox Church, may properly be called Western Orthodox Christians. They should be so called, first, to distinguish them verbally from those Orthodox in the West who follow eastern observances; and second (and far more importantly), to distinguish them from those they seem, superficially, most to resemble: Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Old Catholics, and those other westerners who are not members of the Orthodox Church.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, some western Christians, sensing the deterioration of western Christianity — whose roots within the true Church of Christ had been severed at the time of the Great Schism in 1054, but whose branches and fruit have taken centuries to wither and visibly deteriorate — began to seek their home in the Orthodox Church, the Church which the Holy Spirit had preserved in fidelity and grace in the East.

In approaching Orthodoxy, these western Christians (most of them Anglicans and Old Catholics separated from Rome) met wise and holy Orthodox bishops whose vision of the venerable and valid liturgical heritage of the West had not been dimmed or distorted by centuries of separation. Most notably, in 1870 the hierarchs of the Holy Synod of Russia approved in principle the return of western Christians to Orthodoxy with retention and use of the venerable liturgical and spiritual traditions of the West, insofar as these were not in conflict with Orthodoxy. This recognition of Western Orthodoxy was not to flower for another few generations, but the seed had been planted and blessed. In the first decade of the twentieth century, upon the initiative of the future Patriarch of Moscow, St. Tikhon, then archbishop of America, the Russian Synod again approved western-rite Orthodoxy in its Anglican expression.

In the later twentieth century, on a larger and wider scale, western Christians in approaching Orthodoxy have found themselves the happy inheritors of this blessing and have harvested its fruits. There are now communities of Western Orthodox Christians within the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Patriarchate of Antioch, and several other jurisdictions.

In 1937 in France, a group of Old Catholics returned to Orthodoxy, retaining their western liturgical use and customs, first under Russian jurisdiction (the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad), and then under the Romanian Patriarchate, as the Orthodox Church of France. These Western Orthodox use a rite based on older Gallican models, tested and approved by their Bishop at the time, now Saint John Maximovitch.

St John Maxomovitch

In Holy Week of 1961, on the authority of Alexander III, Patriarch of Antioch, Archbishop Anthony Bashir received Father Alexander Turner and his Old Catholic parishes into the Antiochian Orthodox Church, authorizing them to retain their western rite and usages. Upon the repose of Father Turner, Father Paul Schneirla was appointed to oversee the Western Rite Vicariate within the Antiochian Church. There are now a number of parishes under this authority throughout the United States. Some of these use a Liturgy based upon the original 1549 Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (often called the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon”) while others use the rite of the Mass as celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church (often called the “Liturgy of St. Peter” or “Liturgy of St. Gregory”). This rite of the Mass was familiar to all Roman Catholics until they discarded it in the wake of Vatican II and substituted for it the revised Novus Ordo liturgy now used in almost all Roman Catholic parishes.

As discussed in Our History: From Mount Royal to Christminster, the nucleus of what became the Monastery of Christ the Savior was received into the Russian Orthodox Church in 1962.

All of these Western Orthodox communities celebrate their Liturgy (the Mass) in the vernacular – English in the United States and Australia, French in the Orthodox Church of France – but freely use Latin, the traditional liturgical language of the West, in their rites. All of them also use the traditional Gregorian Chant (and other western chants, such as the Ambrosian and Mozarabic) as well as suitable liturgical music of other periods and places.

Why have these people become Western Orthodox? What do they find in their Church that cannot be found in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Old Catholic Churches of the West? Quite simply, they have found the Church of Christ — His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church — and have wanted to be a part of it, knowing that Christ calls all people into His one true Orthodox Church. They have discovered that their former western churches have abandoned, in varying degrees and in different stages, the true Christian faith and have wandered from Christ’s truth. Even the once seemingly monolithic Roman Catholic church has begun visibly to display that inner disintegration it embarked upon when it broke from Orthodox unity in 1054. Other western churches, being offshoots of the Roman church, appear to be suffering the same disintegration.

Orthodox Christians, both of East and West, are not surprised by this further falling away of the western denominations into novel and bizarre revisions of Christian faith and morals. Orthodox Christians understand that, apart from sacramental unity in the faith of the one Orthodox Church, no true spiritual unity or integration is possible. Orthodox Christians are grieved at the pain of their western brothers and sisters who must suffer the disintegration and chaos wrought by their denominations’ abandonment of true Christianity – grieved and sympathetic and sobered. For Orthodox Christians know that it is only by God’s grace that they have been called into the safe haven of God’s true and unchanging Orthodox Church and have been given the precious gift of the true faith.

Orthodox Christians hope and pray and long for the return of their separated western brothers and sisters to the haven of Christ’s true Orthodox Church. Western Christians need to know that, despite the chaos and distress and confusion within their denominations, Christ’s holy Church is alive and well and vigilant in maintaining the true faith once delivered to the Saints. In Western Orthodoxy, with its forms, rites, and traditions so familiar to western Christians, Christ’s Orthodox Church, welcoming its prodigal western sons and daughters, can provide them with a sense of truly coming home to their Father’s house.


The Western Europe in our Holy Orthodox Faith, in the person of all the Saints who had evangelized its inhabitants during the first millennium A.D., is the only secure foundation upon which European unity should be built and continued.

Orthodoxy is that form of Christianity which gives right glory or right worship to God the Holy Trinity. Orthodoxy is the Christian Church, in succession to the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Priests of the Old Testament, which was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ when He Ordained His Apostles and sent the Holy Spirit upon the faithful gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost. The followers of the Way were first called Christians at Antioch; and the Christians were first called Catholics in a letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch in about the year AD 98. The Orthodox are the original Christians, the first Catholics, the Church of the Apostles, and the Community of the New Testament.The Western Churches, including that of Rome, were part of the unity of Orthodoxy through the whole of the first 1,000 years. Rome only separated from the unity of the church by making extraordinary claims for the earthly powers of her patriarch (Pope) at the beginning of the 11th century and completed the break with the Orthodox by the 13th century. The usual date of the great schism is given as AD 1054. 

The ancient churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople are all Orthodox. About 250 million people now living are members of the Orthodox churches around the world with about 5 million in the USA.The Orthodox Church is universal (catholic), has Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Laity, and a rich Monastic life with Communities of Monks and of Nuns in nearly every country. Most Priests and Deacons are married. Bishops are not married because they are elevated from celebate monastic life for the most part. 

Western Rite Orthodoxy or Western Orthodoxy or Orthodox Western Rite are terms used to describe congregations and groups which are in communion with Eastern Orthodox Churches using traditional Western liturgies rather than adopting Eastern liturgies such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While there are some ancient examples of Western Rite churches in areas predominantly using the Byzantine Rite (the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Latins, often referred to as Amalfi, is a common example), the history of the movement is often considered to begin in the nineteenth century with the life and work of Julius Joseph Overbeck. Less commonly, Western Orthodoxy refers to the Western Church before the Great Schism.

Currently, there are Western Rite parishes within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) as part of the ROCOR Western Rite Vicariate and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America as a part of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (AWRV). Western Rite parishes are found almost exclusively in countries with large Roman Catholic or Protestant majorities. Among the Old Calendarists, there is currently only one jurisdiction using Western Rites. There are also numerous devotional societies and publishing ventures related to the Western Rite. Despite having a place within many Orthodox jurisdictions, the Western Rite remains a contentious issue for some.

The "God" of Western Theology 

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