Monday, February 13, 2012

A Letter from Fr. Patrick

My priest recently sent out a short letter about Western Rite etiquette. I think people who have not been able to make it to an AWRV service will fund this helpful, as accurate information can be hard to get. I am tired from working so I am not changing the font or format, but it should get the point across.

Dear Beloved,

Our chief work and path to salvation is the worship of God. We offer to Him our bodies as living sacrifices, an expression of love. Our love for God and our worship of him is in the body, it is not theoretical or abstract but incarnate. We should offer God our best; we should be attentive, solemn, and faithful. We worship in community not as isolated individuals making things up as we go along; this recognition of our communal worship is also an expression of love for God and the Body of Christ.

I hope the following guidelines concerning church etiquette, ceremonial acts of piety and personal disciplines will help you offer to God a worship that is holy and acceptable in His sight. Please review them carefully and go over them with your children. These guidelines are not exhaustive by any means, if you have further questions please ask.


Sunday Morning Mass is the primary worship service of the week and its preparation begins with Saturday Vespers. We encourage those who can to consider attending Saturday Vespers but even if you do not attend Vespers you should plan your Saturday evening activities in preparation for Sunday morning. If your activities on Saturday night are consistently leaving you tired and unprepared for Sunday morning you need to re-evaluate your schedule.

We also encourage all who can to consider attending Sunday Morning Matins. Attending Matins is a part of preparing yourself for the Mass. If you do not attend Matins you should at least try to arrive 5-10 minutes before Mass to prepare for Holy Communion.

Being late to Mass without due cause is entirely inappropriate, for a Christian who has come to worship God. The same goes for leaving services early. Experience testifies that coming to Church late is more a matter of “habit” than circumstance. If you arrive after the Gospel you should not receive communion unless it is for a reason beyond your control.

Avoid congregating at the back door in the hallway; avoid coming and going during the service unless necessary.

If you have to step out for some reason do not leave the service during the reading of the gospel or the canon of the mass unless it is an emergency.

Try to use the restroom before the service, especially the children.

You are encouraged to prepare for communion using preparation prayers. These prayers can be found in the Black missal or the St. Ambrose prayer book. The preparation prayers may be said at home before coming to church or in your seat before Mass begins.

We use the sanctuary for fellowship at times outside of Mass, please be attentive and respectful and keep the volume down especially when the priest is hearing confessions.


It is customary when greeting a bishop or priest is to ask his blessing and kiss his right hand. To do this: approach the bishop or priest with your right hand over your left and say “Father (“Master,” in the case of a bishop), bless.” This is appropriate and traditional, rather than shaking their hands. When you receive such a blessing it is Christ Himself who offers the blessing through the hand of the priest or bishop.

Upon entering or leaving the church for the first and last time bless yourself with the holy water at the door in remembrance of your baptism and venerate the icon in the back.

Upon arriving at Church you may light a candle and say a prayer for a loved one.

Genuflect when crossing in front of the altar, or coming up for communion especially when there is reserved Sacrament present, (indicated by the lit sanctuary light in the red globe over the altar) at least bow if you cannot genuflect.

Make a profound bow (at the waist) at the Gloria Patri when it occurs at the end of the Psalm, Hymn or Canticle. In the WR we do not make the sign of the cross at this time but bow till the name of the Holy Spirit is mentioned.

Bow your head at the neck at the mention of the name of Christ.

Make a slighter bow of the head at the mention of the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Saint of the day.

At the gospel make the sign of the cross with the thumb on the forehead, lips, and breast, also at the last gospel.

Genuflect at the last gospel, “and the word was made flesh”.

During the canon of the Mass either kneel if you are able or you may stand, do not sit unless it is a physical necessity.

Bow when being censed.

When in doubt watch the priest and servers for cues on when to cross yourself and bow.


Your personal rule forms the basic structure of your ascetical struggle. This is very important for the daily working out of your salvation and should be discussed with your priest. Our rule is personal but not independent, please be attentive to the calendar which is our common guide.

Confession is one of the greatest gifts we have been given to work out our salvation. It seems cheap to give a minimum number of times one has to confess, legalism always produces reductionism, i.e. what is the least I can do and still be ok with God. That being said, to only confess a couple of times a year is to miss out of this great gift.

Fasting: follow the rules the church sets forth with any special directions from your confessor, pay attention to the Ordo/Calendar for Fasting days.

Church attendance, community life: There is a sign on the local gym door which says showing up is 90% of the battle. Nothing can take the place of worshiping God in community, participating in the Sacraments, offering prayers and entering into community life, this is our chief work and the bedrock of our personal rule. Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. Make worshiping God you’re your treasure. Sunday mornings are a minimum priority.

Giving: Tithing 10% of your income is the ideal with offerings in addition. Tithing is not strictly an Old Testament principal and the offerings we make to the Church translate into offerings of our lives and gifts of sacrifice which are a part of our laudable worship.

Daily Prayers: set up a rule with your confessor, you should at the very least be saying morning prayers.

Holy Reading: it is strongly encouraged to be reading the scriptures, an edifying book and or the lives of the saints on an ongoing basis.

Communion fast: fast before morning mass from midnight the night before and 6 hours before an evening liturgy.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Patrick

Thursday, September 29, 2011

St. Michael and All Angels

Collect: O God, who dost ordain and constitute the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: mercifully grant; that they, who always stand before thee and do thee service in heaven, may likewise succour and defend our life on earth. Through...

Offertory: An Angel stood by the altar of the temple, having a holden censer in his hand, and there was given unto him much incense: and the smoke of the incense ascended up before God, alleluia.

Secret: We offer thee, O Lord, this sacrifice of praise, humbly beseeching thee: that, by the prayers of the Angels interceding for us, thou wouldest both graciously accept the same, and grant that it may avail to our salvation. Through...

Postcommunion: O Lord, forasmuch as we put our trust in the intercession of thy blessed Archangel Michael: we humbly beseech thee; that as without outward lips we are made partakers of this holy Sacrament, so we may inwardly recieve the benefit of the same. Through...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Peasant Girl's Wisdom

"God has just such gladness every time he see's from heaven that a sinner is praying to Him with all his heart, as a mother has when she sees the first smile on her baby's face."- Peasant girl from Dostoevsky's The Idiot

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in
mystic glow;
Where he in flesh, our
flesh who made,
Our sentence bore, our
ransom paid.

O God, who makes us glad this day by the yearly solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: grant, we beseech Thee, that we who on earth have learned the mystery of our redemption, may be found worthy of its rewards in heaven. Through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end.

After a great of deal of soul-searching and probably a good bit of over-analysis on my part, I have returned as the prodigal son to the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Western Rite. The year away was very education and I got to know a lot (though far from all) of the area Orthodox parishes and experience several different jurisdictions. I also benefited from the vast catechesis of the Eastern Rite's services, which all Orthodox people should know, regardless of what rite they worship in. On the other hand, I really do encourage you Eastern Rite folk to try out the Western Rite if it is possible, just for a Sunday. I think even if you have doubts, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spiritual Instructions of Elder Macarius, by One of His Spiritual Children

"Whatever Fr. Macarius advised, he always put humility at the forefront of his counsels; from that virtue he brought forth all the subsequent virtues which make up the character of a true Christian. Here is the essence of the lessons Fr. Macarius taught to all who thirsted for his instructions and edification: to examine your conscience; to continually struggle with your passions; to cleanse your soul of sins; to love God in the simplicity of your heart; to believe in Him without calculating; to have unceasingly before you His limitless mercy, and with all the strength of your soul to praise Him and bless Him in all of life's unpleasant circumstances; to look for your own guilt, and forgive any trespass of your neighbor against you in order to obtain God's forgiveness for your sins; to try to establish love for your neighbor in yourself; to preserve peace and tranquility in your family and acquaintances; to recall more often the commandments of God and to try to fulfill them, as well as the decrees of the Church; if possible, to go to confession and partake of the Holy Mysteries several times a year; to observe all four fast periods, as well as Wednesdays and Fridays; to attend Vigil and Liturgy on every feast day; to say morning and evening prayers and even a few psalms every day, and, if time allows, to read a chapter of the Gospels or the Epistles of the Apostle; to pray every morning and evening for the repose of the departed and the salvation of the living, and, at the beginning of this prayer, to pray with reverence for the Sovereign Tsar and all the Royal Family. If, under whatever circumstances, then reproach yourself so as to sincerely repent, and make a firm resolve not to fail likewise in the future. Pray even for those against whom you bear some ill will, for this is the surest means toward reconciliation in Christ."

For most of us, this is the kind of instruction we need. Reading lofty passages from the fathers and trying to practice advanced forms of prayer will only wear most of us out or lead us to delusion. I have found this passage extremely useful and hope that others will as well. It is taken, as so many of my posts, from an appendix to "Elder Macarius of Optina" published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. In case you have not heard me say this before, I cannot recommend the Optina elders series enough. Of course, as in all things, ask and respect the wishes of your spiritual fathers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do Not Forget the Copts!

I request that my few readers please read this relatively recent article regarding the continued oppression of the Copts at this link here. Egypt seems to be fading from our news but the problems there are truly great, especially for our Coptic Orthodox brothers and sisters. They continue to suffer and be martyred and I am truly inspired by their determination to remain in Egypt, despite the hardships. Egypt was Christian long before Islam came along, and I pray that it will remain Christian forever. I also hope that if, God forbid, such things should ever happen in America that we would have such faith and resolve.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ivan Kireyevsky on Russian Orthodoxy and the West

An excerpt from an appendix to "Elder Macarius Of Optina" regarding the views of Ivan Kireyevsky on Western thought. It is clearly Slavophile, but useful I think to Western converts. The original text was written by Prof. Ivan M. Kontzevitch.

"In his service to the publishing work of Optina, Ivan Vasilievich had the opportunity to study Patristic literature in its entirety. Having earlier received an excellent philosophical education at home and having supplemented it during his stay in Germany (bloggers note: he studied under and was acquainted with Hegel), he was thus entirely familiar with Western culture. In him the Western philosophical tradition met the tradition of the Eastern Church. How was this encounter of two opposing principles resolved?

The answer to this question is given in his essay "On the Character of European Enlightenment in its Relationship to the Enlightenment of Russia," printed in 1852 in Moscow Anthology, the publication of a Slavophile circle. This essay incurred censorship prohibition against the anthology; but there was not in it anything against the state. The sense of the essay is as follows:

Being trained in the West and knowing it perfectly, Kireyevsky harshly criticized its culture. The West had reached a spiritual dead end. The spiritual disease of Western culture was the "triumph of rationalism." In this lies its essence, as Professor V. Zenkovsky testifies: "The accusation of rationalism brought against the entire West arose in the West itself in the 18th century, both in France as well as in Germany."

Kireyevsky spoke in greater detail about this malady of Europe: "European enlightenment has now reached the fullness of its development, but the result of this development has been an almost universal feeling of discontent and betrayed hope. The very triumph of the European mind has revealed the one-sidedness of its fundamental aspirations...Life itself has been deprived of essential meaning." "The cold analysis of many centuries has destroyed the foundations upon which, from the very beginning of its development, European enlightenment has rested. As a consequence, its own basic principles (i.e., those of Christianity) have become strange and alien to it. And this analysis which has destroyed its roots- this self-propelling knife of reason, this syllogism, recognizing nothing except itself and individual experience, this despotic rationality, this logical activity- is cut off from all man's other cognitive powers" (Vol. II, p. 232). "The Western world, just as the East, originally lived by faith, but faith itself was impaired when Rome placed syllogisms above the consciousness of the whole of Christianity" (Vol. II, 285). Kireyevsky showed that this impairment resulted in the "development, first, of scholastic philosophy within faith, then of a Reformation of faith, and finally a philosophy outside of faith" (Vol. II, 284). "The Western Church substituted the outward authority of its hierarchy for the inner authority of truth (when arbitrarily and without the consent of the East it changed the Symbol of Faith)." This "has led to... rationalism, i.e., the triumph of autonomous reason," which in turn has led to the inevitable disintegration of spiritual wholeness. "Dualism and rationality are the ultimate expressions of Western culture."

The West overlooked Eastern wisdom. Its scholars mastered in detail all the ancient philosophies: Egyptian, Persian, Chinese, Hindu, etc. But the mysticism of the Orthodox East was closed to them. Russia, on the other hand, inherited from Byzantium great treasures of this spiritual wisdom contained in the writings of the Holy Fathers. Hence, Russia's historical task was to build on the rich Byzantine heritage a new spiritual culture which would impregnate the whole world. Kireyevsky posed the whole problem in all its fullness. According to him, Russian philosophy was to be built on "the deep, living and pure love for wisdom of the Church Fathers, which is the embryo of the higher philosophic principle" (Vol. II, 332).

The task of Russian philosophy is not to reject Western thought, but to supplement it with what is revealed in higher spiritual vision- the living experience of 'higher knowledge'- in which wholeness of spirit, which was lost in the Fall and impaired by the triumph of logical thought in Western Christianity, is recovered."