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One Church and Several Liturgies

From Lux Occidentalis, by Fr. John Connely
Used by permission

The historical John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth) was a son of Antioch, an Arab Christian, who served the Liturgy of St. James most of his life. That venerable Liturgy (and the Liturgy of St. Mark of Alexandria) was needlessly suppressed in the 13th Century by "Patriarch" Theodore IV (Balsamon), who was a Greek bishop living at Constantinople, and who never saw Antioch and never served the Liturgy of St. James. The arrogance of those who discard sacred tradition does not belong only to the modern period. Nor does such arrogance belong only to the Latin West.

The worship of the one, holy, Apostolic, and Catholic Church, through the first millennium, was expressed in several regional Liturgies with local variations. These Liturgies include that of St. James in Antioch and the East, St. Mark in Alexandria and Africa, St. Peter in Rome and the West (with some residue of the Liturgy of St. John of Ephesus, and the local Ambrosian and Gallican and Mozarabic Liturgies) and St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom in the Imperial City and among the Hellenes (Greeks). This is the early Church which St. Ignatius of Antioch [c. 35- 107] first described [Ep. ad Smyr. 8.2.] as the Catholic Church and which is confessed in the Nicene Creed... "and I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."

The Western Rite has undergone some "development" and augmentation in 1500 years, and so has the Eastern Rite. If the Western Rite seems strange to some Orthodox observers, it is probably because of its antiquity and austerity as compared with the highly developed and elaborated expression of the Eastern Rite.

It would appear that the Liturgy of St. James, which is now used only on his Feast Day, may return to Orthodoxy with the reconciliation of the Jacobites. The venerable Liturgical Tradition of the Christian West has been restored to Orthodoxy, by the patronage of St. Tikhon, enlightener of America, and St. John (Maximovitch) of San Francisco, and through the hospitality of the Apostolic Throne of Saints Peter and Paul, the Patriarch and Holy Synod of Antioch. We are profoundly grateful to his beatitude, Patriarch Ignatius IV. We remember especially our Metropolitan Philip, who is expert in the forms and missionary application of all the Orthodox Liturgies, and who is constant in his care of the churches. God grant him many years!


The Revd. John Connely is a graduate of the University of Colorado and holds the degree Artium Magistri Religionem from Yale University. He is Pastor of St. Mark's Parish, Denver, Colorado and Dean of the Central States Deanery, Western Rite Vicariate, The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.