The Third Rome and the Western Rite (2007)

November 27, 2007

By Matt Johnson

At the basis of the ideology of the Russian Church Abroad is a fervent and sincere intention – whatever might happen, regardless of any contemporary evil influences and tendencies – to remain faithful to God’s Truth, to remain totally devoted to the Founder of the Church, Christ the Saviour, and to the Evangelical teaching on faith and piety which He brought to earth without any human corruptions or distortions, and preserve the full spiritual freedom which Christ gave to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which He founded on earth for men’s salvation.

Bishop Averky of Jordanville

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense ‘Catholic,’ which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

St. Vincent of Lerins

But God is more powerful than devil, and will never abandon His servants. There will always be true Christians, till the end of time, but they will choose lonely and deserted places. Do not fear troubles, but fear pernicious heresy, for it drives out Grace, and separates from Christ, wherefore Christ commanded consider the heretic as let him be unto thee as a heathen man and publican.

St. Anatole of Optina

All the faithful will have to understand that the Church is not there where it appears to be. Liturgies will continue to be performed, and the churches will be filled with people, but the Church will have no relation with those churches or those clergy and those faithful. The Church is where the truth is. The faithful are those who continue the unbroken tradition of Orthodoxy, that work of the Holy Spirit. Those real priests are those who think, live, and teach as the Fathers and the Saints of the Church did, or at least do not reject them in their teaching. Where that continuity of thought and life does not exist, it is a deception to speak of the Church, even if all the outward marks speak of it.

Alexander Kalomiros

In my first sermon as an Orthodox priest, I made the following statement: “It is my main focus to resurrect and popularize the ancient rites of the Orthodox west.” That still remains true. Orthodoxy can never be reduced to a single “rite,” and, even if that were so, there is certainly more than one version of the Liturgy of St. John, a liturgy substantially rewritten and standardized after the capitulation of the Second Rome to the Turks. Patriarch Nikon in Russia instituted a Russian novus ordo, where nearly ever aspect of the liturgical service was rewritten, from the bows after the proskomede to the form of the epiclesis.

Nevertheless, a small problem remains in respect to the ancient Benedictine tradition. Its proper integration into a Russian and pan-Slavic context. It seems oddly out of place to perform the ancient Benedictine services in a context that is Russian and part of the Byzantine inheritance. It seems to lack integrity. The fact is that many Orthodox saints were promoters of the western tradition, such as Sts Raphael Haweeney, St. Tihkon Bulavin and John Maximovitch, not to mention the (legitimate) Ukrainian patriarchate under MYSTISLAV and VLADIMIR. Further, the Russian True Orthodox church, from the Ukrainians, maintains a western rite vicariate in Texas. The Benedictines maintained an Athonite monastery up until the Crusades, and the Benedictines were active in ancient Ukraine, where the western rite, as in Serbia, for a time, was more popular than the eastern rite.

Apart from these considerations, is there a method whereby the ancient Benedictine tradition, or the Gallican for that matter, can be part of the Russo-Ukrainian context without harming either partner? There most certainly is, and it is that of Rome. Rome not as a place, but as a concept, the passing of the torch of rule, and a rule integrated as to its affect, both ecclesial and theological.

The resurrection of Rome defines European history from the rise of St. Charles the Great in the west to the murder of the Tsar Nikolai II. In every case, traversing Europe from the early middle ages, the concept of Rome was the center of all things legitimate, lawful and properly ordered. But the mantle of Rome was not open for conquest, it existed solely as a manifestation of the true faith, wisdom, a faith defended by arms no doubt, but the true faith nevertheless.

The ancient councils defined Rome in political terms, “the seat of the empire and the senate.” This concept was openly accepted by Old Rome, or the first Rome, prior to the more systematic claims of papal supremacy, centralization and infallibility. The synods considered Constantinope and Rome as equally “Romes,” hence admitting their equality and Petrine origin. New and Old Rome were labels admitting of an equality, but an equality based on the existence of imperial institutions.

But since the concept of Rome was far more than the existence of imperial institutions, it developed into a concept of the ancient faith, the ancient faith capable of defending itself both by arms and by intellectual discussion. The first Rome fell just after the turning of the first millennium due to new and unheard of practices introduced into that see, practices designed to buttress the power of the Roman see apart from any real theological considerations. These include, most notoriously, the development of the filioque clause in the creed, a clause saturated with political, social and theological content, and highly misunderstood by critics, Orthodox and secular alike. The clause “from the Son,” in reference to the Holy Spirit, means that the procession of the Spirit derives from the flesh, that is, the assumed flesh of Christ. The ancient tradition refused to accept this notion in theory because it “imprisoned” the spirit and enslaved it to the flesh, and hence to institutions. Since institutions were relative and changing, the Spirit needed to maintain its properly “pneumatic” character, proceeding from the Bodiless alone, God the father. The adoption of this clause meant that Christ helped create the Spirit, which automatically, since the “keys” were given to Peter, the Spirit then proceeds from the pope of Rome. The rather uncomfortable idea that the great Apostle founded many sees was largely bound for underneath the rug.

This is the true nature of the filioque clause: that is provided the basis for the concept of “created grace,” a true heresy, that itself derives from the filioque clause in that if the Spirit proceeds from the enfleshed Son, then it proceeds from his representative on earth, the pope of Rome. If this is true, then the pope can control its actions and grace, which itself lies at the basis of indulgences, purgatory and papal infallibility, because the Spirit, by definition, proceeds from the vicar of the chief apostle, who provides the keys to his successor. This is the basis of Roman Catholicism and its heresy.

If the first Rome fell, then the synodally based “Rome,” on the Bosporus, takes over, and the Byzantine Empire becomes the New Rome, with all the privileges of the first. But the privileges of Rome do not include direct rule. At best, it represents the ability, manifest in many local councils, such as that of Sardinia, to judge disputes as the last court of appeal. In practice, both in Rome and Byzantium, this amounted to the calling of a local synod to solve the problem.

The Greeks were soon to fall as well. However, from the point of view of the early 21st century, that fall took many forms. It is highly doubtful that the ephemeral “union” with the papalists just prior to the fall of the city is responsible. It is rather the condition of the patriarchate afterwards. The Greek Patriarch, after the fall of the city, became a cash cow for the Turks. All ecclesial positions were open to the highest bidder, and this became the normal functioning of the bishoprics. In return, all Slavic bishoprics under Turkish control were suppressed in favor of Greeks who had prospered at the Phanar and were able to pay for their ordination and consecration. In the meantime, the patriarchate, in a bid to regain its lost power (though in truth occurring long before), began a systematic rewriting of the ancient liturgy of St. John. In general, this was the summary of the liturgical changes that were to create such havoc in Russia.

Changing of the prayers at the epiclesis. In the ancient rites of Greece, this was a lengthy set of prayers, including many bows and the veneration of many icons in the church. It was shortened, and the recitation of the daily troparia and the trisagion were eliminated. The antiphons were used narly every Sunday, rather than on feasts, which was the more ancient custom. In the ancient rite, psalms were sung in their fullness in the liturgy where the antiphons are placed today. The table of preparation was blessed during the little entrance, a practice dropped by the Greek (and later Russian) liturgical reformers. The sign of the cross was infamously changed by the Greeks at this time, a changed brought on the Russians under Nikon. The epiclesis was changed top include the phrase “. . . changing them by the Holy Spirit,” a phrase that does not predate the 15th century. The 9th hour was rewritten and shortened to eliminate the Beatitudes, the numerous prayers before the dismissal, and the elimination of the creed and many psalms said in that very long hour. The 9th hour was changed from a substantial part of the liturgy to a short, “diurnal hour.” Vespers was changed to eliminate the obligatory verses during the psalms, which substantially lengthened the reading thereof. “Orthros” was detached from Matins, in imitation of the ancient Benedictine/western practice of a “Lauds” prayer.

In short, from a liturgical point of view, the period just prior and just after the fall of the Second Rome caused liturgical havoc in Greece, later to be exported to Russia and create the “Old Believers schism.” Ultimately, nearly everything in the liturgical services were changed. The reason for all this was identical to the liturgical changes occurring in Rome at the same time: the alteration and “standardization” of the liturgy was a sign of the power of the center. It is a usurpation of the power of local synods and monasteries to evolve their own typica according to local needs, usages and traditions, as is the more ancient tradition. Both in Rome and Byzantium, the changes were arbitrary, since they came from many local uses, cobbled together with the aim of making a standard liturgy that would magnify the power of the center.

In the 20th century, the innovation common among the Greeks reached a fever pitch in that wake of the destruction of World War I. Broke, decimated and demoralized, the Greeks approached the English government (their allies in the war) and the Free masonic lodges to recreate the patriarchy. The calendar, Greek Masonry and the “new orthodoxy” of ecumenism derived from this process, though in truth, the seeds of this capitulation existed much farther back in history. The Second Rome took a long time to fall, but its fall was a disaster.

The mantle, during the Turkish control over the Patriarchate, fell to Moscow, the Third Rome. It should be noted that this Rome, the label that Moscow took, was given to it by the demoralized Greeks of the Turkokratia. It was not something “appropriated” by the Russians, but an Orthodox Catholic Church without Rome was inconceivable to the fathers. It remains so today.

What does any of this have to do with the western/Benedictine rite? Everything. The ancient liturgies were done through the cultural matrix of Rome. All the ancient western liturgies were a product of Roman culture and Roman tradition, wherever their geographic origin. There is no “Gothic” rite or “Celtic” rite. They took from the ancient traditions that existed at the time, and in their case, it was Rome. Hispano-Romans crated the beautiful Mozarabic rite, the Gallic (Celtic) Romans (and hence the ancient Irish) created the Gallican rite, and the Anglo-Romans, thorough the mediation of both Iona and St. Augustine of Kent, created the Sarum rite.

The point is, that if the first two Romes have fallen through military defeat, cultural regression and heresy, then one Rome remains, that of Russia. But, since the squalid murder of the Royal Family, the Constantian era has apparently ended, and there is little hope for a return. There cannot be more than three Romes, so what gives?

Since Rome is not a place, Rome can exist, and does exist, in every truly Orthodox chapel, skete and home. Rome means right belief, right law and right order. It penetrates every aspect of one’s being. There is no Orthodoxy without Rome, almost by definition. Russia has a special place in that her Roman mission can never end, largely since her mission still exists as a strong military power, with the largest number of Orthodox in the world. But it is more than that: Moscow became, as the number three signifies, a synthesis of the other two Romes.

St. Theophan of Poltava writes:

Oh, Russia, Russia! How terribly has she sinned before the loving kindness of the Lord. The Lord God favored Russia, and He gave her that which He had not given to a single other nation on earth. And this nation turned out to be so ungrateful. She left Him; she rejected Him; and it is therefore that the Lord has given her over to be tormented by devils. The devils took up their residence in the souls of men, and the nation of Russia became possessed; literally, devil-ridden. And all the terrible things that we hear about what went on — and what continues to go on — in Russia: all the sacrilege, all the militant atheism and theomachy, — all of this stems from her being possessed by devils. But, through the inexpressible mercy of God, this possession will pass and the nation will be healed. The nation will turn to repentance; to faith. That will occur, which none expects. Russia will be resurrected from the dead, and the entire world will be astonished. Orthodoxy in her will be reborn and triumph. But that Orthodoxy which had existed formerly will be no more.The great startsy have said that Russia will be reborn; that the people themselves will restore the Orthodox Monarchy. A mighty Tsar’ will be placed upon the Throne by God Himself. He will be a great reformer, and he will be strong in the Orthodox faith. He will cast down the unfaithful hierarchs of the Church. He himself will be an outstanding personality, with a pure and holy soul. He will possess a strong will. He will be of the Romanov Dynasty, through the maternal line. He will be God’s Chosen One, obedient to the Lord in all things. He will transform Siberia. But this Russia will exist only for a very short time. Soon thereafter will come to pass that of which the Apostle John speaks in his Apocalypse.

The first Rome is famous for its stark beauty, its love of law, its oratory, its love of “businesslike” order. This is valuable, but it can never exhaust the Christian life. The overemphasis of law leads to a fetishization of law, “legalism” and “scholasticism” in philosophy, order without beauty, logic without rhetoric. Byzantium provided Orthodoxy with its poetry and its merger with the rest of the world, in that the Byzantine empire was heavily influenced by Persian and other eastern traditions, making it truly ecumenical. It straddled the most strategic part of the world, the meeting of continents, Africa, Asia (and hence, North and South America), and Europe. Russia became a synthesis of both. A true love of law, Russia was placed to quite literally straddle the world. Law was never taken to extremes, and localism became the norm in Russian jurisprudence. The peasant commune and the ancient skete monasticism acted as an antidote to strict, Justinian legalism. Russia struggled with maintaining this synthesis, and it broke down for a time in the 18th century. Only after the liberation of the serfs did this synthesis take its rightful place. It was destroyed in the fires of World War I. In both cases, the Romes fell through pride and sin, the wages of becoming “European” and part of “modern culture.” Since there can be no fourth Rome, Holy Russia remains as the last standard of Orthodoxy, Catholicism and true law. Hence, all Christians can find solace in her. They are Christians only in becoming Orthodox, but Russia’s worldwide mission is to bring Orthodoxy to the world. This is why the western rites always appealed to Russians and not to Greeks, because, despite the gifts given to that elite race, her mission was not meant to last. Russia is a synthesis of everything good in global life: law with beauty, commerce without class, community within order. Much of this was later distorted, but the literally synthetic nature of the Russian Orthodox mission remains, and its last manifestation was the diaspora created by the Bolshevik coup. Russia alone was charged to disperse itself and go into every nation of the globe spreading the gospel, a concept not lost on St. John Maximovitch, who spoke of this regularly. Hence, even the evil of the Bolshevik coup was brought to goodness by God, who used it both to purify the third Rome, as well as to force it to become missionary, not localized in Slavic lands, but existing in the most corrupt and alien city in the world, New York. Vladimir Moss writes,

For the Russian idea is in essence Orthodox Christian and therefore universalist. As Nicholas Lossky wrote, quoting Dostoyevsky: “The eastern ideal, that is, the ideal of Russian Orthodoxy, is ‘first the spiritual union of humanity in Christ, and then, by virtue of this spiritual union of all in Christ, and undoubtedly flowing from it – a correct state and social union” (Diary of a Writer, May-June, 1877). Of course, this idea has never been fully incarnate in Russian history, and Leninism and “Soviet patriotism” were grotesque mockeries of the Russian idea and Russian patriotism. As for today’s post-communist Russia, it is far from incarnating that universalism which Dostoyevsky extols. Nevertheless, those nations, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, who see Russia as always having been a chauvinist and expansionist State make both an historical and a moral error.

But it is precisely this synthetic nature of the Third Rome that provides it with the necessity of resurrecting the ancient rites of the west. It is was precisely this mission that inspired St. John to dedicate a large amount of his time to creating entire jurisdictions, in France and in the Netherlands, dedicated to the western rites. Ukraine, in the same political boat as the Russians, felt the same, especially under the Blessed +Paladios, Ukrainian head of the Autocephalous Synod of Bishops of the Western Rite, created as autocephalous by the Second Rome. The diaspora situation, created a mentality that was missionary and synthetic, to create the fullness of global Orthodoxy through a single faith, but with many rites manifesting the traditions of the first two Romes. Hence the Slavs, aware of their global mission, the synthesis fo the first two Romes into a truly universal Roman life, have helped crate and encourage the western and other Roman rites. St. Anatole of Optina wrote,

There will be a storm. And the Russian ship will be smashed to pieces. But people can be saved even on splinters and fragments. And not everyone will perish. One must pray, everyone must repent and pray fervently. And what happens after a storm? …There will be a calm. . . A great miracle of God will be manifested. And all the splinters and fragments, by the will of God and His power, will come together and be united, and the ship will be rebuilt in its beauty and will go on its own way as foreordained by God. And this will be a miracle evident to everyone.

This permits of a moderate position on the Old Ritual situation in Russia. The Old believers understood their mission of preserving the liturgical and legal tradition of the Third Rome. Their only error was that it was not universal, with Russia at its head, but local, Slavic and inward looking. From a spiritual point of view, this is not a problem, bu t from an eschatological point of view, it is a problem, since Rome, by its very essential nature, implies universal law and universal worship. The Russian mission, then, as the Third Rome, is the creation of a single Orthodox mind, manifest in a multiplicity of rites, something rather inherent in any concept of synthesis. Synthesis implies a unity in diversity, not an absorption. Those of us who have responded to the call of Rome are not called on to “become Russians.” We are called on to become Orthodox, fully cognizant of Russia’s leadership, but through the liturgical vehicle of Rome considered as a totality, both Latin and Greek (using those labels in the broadest sense). This mission has been complicated as of late by the fall of the ROCOR into the (partially unwilling) MP. The fall of Jordanville was the acceptance of Stalin’s patriarchate as the actual head of the Russian church, while nearly all of the new martyrs condemned the close association of Sergius with the Cheka and OGPU. The Russian Orthodox church, in order to manifest its universal mission even further, was dispersed to the four corners of the globe, bringing about the final mission of Rome, the literal preaching of the gospel to all lands. That mission was rejected by the rump ROCOR in favor of “universal acceptance,” reducing the Russian mission to the building of the false notion of Rome: unification without communion. That this the cardinal heresy of ecumenism does not need emphasis. It is the union of anti-Christ, it is the anti-Rome. It is the unification of Rome’s anti-type, Babylon, which exists solely as a unity of coercion and deceit, based on the use of images (the anti-type to icons) to manipulate the herd-like population. This is manifested by the obsession with institutions of the false Orthodox, who define “canonical” as being in communion with the Phanar.

Rome represents a unity in diversity, a unity of true communion in doctrine and life, but multiplicity in rites, typica, monasticism and ethnic tradition, none of which attack the core of the faith, and the legal rights of Rome. If the first Rome was Latin, the second Greek (again very broad usages), the third is truly universal, the synthesis of universality with particularity, the single doctrine of Orthodoxy with the multiplicity of local typica. With the Bolshevik takeover, what was universal in potential became universal in act, the bringing of the gospel to all lands. Throughout the building of the Third Rome, the other Romes were dependent upon her, both in the stragglers from England and Italy who became Orthodox, as well as the Greek dependence on Russian aid through her modern existence. Russia then manifested her potential mission by bringing the two Romes together, a concept made pure both by the diaspora as well as the resurrection of the Old Rites of the west, Biblically foreshadowed by the dead who rose in their graves at the crucifixion of Christ by the forces of Babylon, the Rome obsessed with law and power. Hence, what had existed potentially in Old Rome becomes manifest in all its universality in the 20th century. Alexander Kalomiros writes on this topic:

There will always be found a canonical priest, ordained by a canonical bishop, who will follow the Tradition. Around such priests will gather the small groups of the faithful who will remain until the last days. Each one of these small groups will be a local catholic Church of God. The faithful will find in them the entire fullness of the grace of God. They will have no need of administrative or other ties, for the communion that will exist among them will be the most perfect there can be. It will be communion in the Body and Blood of Christ, communion in the Holy Spirit. The golden links of the unalterable Orthodox Tradition will connect those Churches among themselves as well as with the Churches of the past, with the Church triumphant of heaven. In these small groups the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will be preserved intact.

Power, in terms of political organization, was removed from the Orthodox, both in the fall of the Second and Third Romes, (not to mention the other attempts at restructuring Roman power in Gaul, Serbia and Germany, all of which were praiseworthy), and the Constantian era ended. The life of Babylon was stripped from her, and she was forced to carry Rome within her daily struggle throughout the planet. Rome ceased to be associated with violence and coercion, and became the daily struggle for the faith, Rome was now purified and became right living, a right living preserved at one time by military force, from Moses to Nikolai, but now, with a small globe and Orthodoxy on the internet, the universality inherent in the Roman idea becomes increasingly manifest, while, ironically, being held by fewer and fewer people and the world races to its consummation. It has never been numbers who defined Rome, nor military power or size, but the holy faith which came into the world precisely at the height of Rome’s power. Is now reduced in size, but fully purified in terms of doctrine and right living.

Hence, the situation in the 21st century becomes this: Rome has its final synthesis, purified in doctrine, facing the anti-Rome, the very manifestation of Babylon, the System, manifested in globalist, cosmopolitan capitalism without borders, cultures or God. Rome is now the purified True Orthodox struggle, manifesting within itself the three Romes. Russia as its center, the largest Orthodox Resisting population cherishing the martyrdom of the last Constantian, Nikolai II, the Greek Old Calendar movement, which itself contains those from the First Rome, those western rite traditionalists within the Synod of Milan and the True Russian Orthodox Church. One in faith, many in rite and life. Small in numbers, powerless in politics, but pure in faith and doctrine. It is the final manifestation of Rome.