Yes! Western Orthodoxy is a ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. It has restored to the Orthodox Church her rightful heritage of the beautiful Western forms of worship. Western Orthodoxy enables Americans to worship in a way which speaks to their hearts, language, music and traditions. It enables Americans to be joyfully in communion with the over 200 million Orthodox Christians in the United States and throughout the world.
Western Orthodoxy is as ancient as the faith itself. Before the Great Schism (circa.1054), Christians in both East and West were Orthodox. Then as now, the church embraced different rites expressive of the one faith, and also of the diverse people and cultures who used them. The Orthodox Church was in England at least as early as the 2nd century. Over the years, the churches in the West, including England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, made beautiful and lasting contributions to the rich mosaic of Orthodox worship.
When the East and West split, these Western expressions of Orthodoxy were torn asunder from the Orthodox church. Preserved and developed by the Anglo-Catholic tradition within Western churches, these beautiful traditions — duly reviewed and corrected as necessary — are now again being celebrated by Orthodox Christians. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Holy Cross is the parish whose important and unique vocation is to express its Orthodoxy in this Western way.
Orthodoxy in America: Then and Now
You may have heard of “Greek Orthodox”, “Russian Orthodox”, “Serbian Orthodox”, etc. This form of administrative organization began when a group of Orthodox Christians from — for example, Russia — would emigrate to American and found a church. Before there were Orthodox bishops resident in America, the parish would be under the bishop in Russia. Elsewhere in America, a group of Greek Americans would be doing the same thing, as would a group of Serbians, and others. More Orthodox from these various lands came to America and founded communities. Existing communities and families grew. There developed networks of parishes throughout the United States, administratively separate and spiritually in communion.
For these historical reasons, in America today these networks — called “jurisdictions” — remain loosely organized according to where the original founders emigrated from. The jurisdiction to which Holy Cross belongs is the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, itself part of the venerable Church of Antioch. Antioch is mentioned in the Book of Acts as the place where the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians”. The unity between these jurisdictions is expressed through the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA), of which the Antiochian Archdiocese is a member. The Antiochian Archdiocese is distinguished among the Orthodox jurisdictions in its openness to converts and its loving reception of Western Orthodoxy.
Why the Orthodox Faith (Western Orthodoxy)?
All the crises people and the world endure, we face because of the failure of Christians to be truly Christian. Orthodox Christians believe that it is not up to us to compromise, adulterate, attenuate or eviscerate the Faith which was once — and for all time — delivered unto the saints. We believe the Orthodox Faith is the full expression of the Biblical mind, to which all who search for the Kingdom of God will assent. We try, with God’s help, to keep this Faith in truth and holiness, in the bonds of peace and unity, by love and charity.
Americans who embrace the Orthodox faith need not become “Eastern Christians”; we remain Americans, but, we hope, purified, illumined, redeemed. Our worship is in English. Our rites, devotions and practices are Western — rooted in the ones used in the West before the Great Schism which rent asunder the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. To this holy and undivided Church all non-heretical Christians belonged until that time. All can now belong again.
Our memories are western; our habits are western; our traditions are western. We are bringing our history and our culture back into the Orthodox Church, purged and put into perspective by the Orthodox Faith.
The Western Rite is neither an antiquarian enterprise nor an escapist endeavor. We are not attempting to recreate a world lost for all time. God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are not absent; the promise of their personal presence with us is the reality of our lives, and the only true life of the world. With this world we shall ceaselessly contend and ever bear witness to the One Way, Truth and Life. Whatsoever is good, holy, honorable and true in the world we shall acknowledge; what is corrupt, we hope to purify. God willing, we will never hesitate in this mission nor seek the false comforts of hibernation.