LONDON 7th of March 2007: On Sunday the 4th of March, the Divine Liturgy of the Western Rite was celebrated at the thousand year old Saxon-Norman church of Saint Mary the Virgin at Capel-le-Ferne in Kent. Matins preceded the Divine Liturgy.
The celebration was in honour of the centenary of the decision of the Holy Synod of Russia to permit the adaption of services taken out of the Book of Common Prayer, for use by Orthodox people. The decision was made at the request of Saint Patriarch Tikhon (Belavin) of Moscow in 1904. A committee set up by the Holy Synod, which included Saint Tikhon, reported back to the Holy Synod in 1907, and the Synod acted upon its favourable report.
That decision followed in the spirit of a decision made by the Holy Synod thirty-seven years earlier, when it had legislated permission for an adaption of the Western Rite Liturgy of Saint Gregory the Great to be used by Orthodox people.
The Liturgy celebrated this last Sunday was the “English Liturgy” taken from The Saint Colman Prayer Book, (authorised by Archbishop Hilarion (ROCOR) some years ago) the services from which are now in use by episcopal blessing in several ROCOR dioceses.
The celebrant at Capel-le-Ferne (picture below left) was Fr. Michael, superior of Saint Petroc Monastery (ROCOR) assisted by Fr. Barry Jefferies of Saint Stephen Mission, Launceston (ROCOR) and was attended by an invited congregation from Orthodox societies and parishes in England, the USA, Australia, France and Belgium. The choir was directed by Mr. Michael Astley from Manchester.
The Western Rite, having been permitted by the Holy Synod of Russia, was later also permitted by the Holy Synods of Antioch and Romania. As a result, the first Western Rite diocese was erected in Czechoslovakia in 1919, which yielded the Church the Martyr Bishop Gorazd Pavlik during WW II. It was followed by a diocese in Poland and, in 1936, by the Orthodox Church of France, all of which were decimated by the Germans during WW II.
Saint John of Shanghai consecrated Fr. Evgraf Kovalevsky as Western Rite as Bishop Jean- Nectaire of the Diocese of Saint Denys, Paris and strongly supported the Western Rite within ROCOR and Orthodoxy in general. He is recorded as celebrating the Western Rite Liturgy himself both in France and in the USA.
Further celebrations of the centenary of the Holy Synod of Russia decision are planned for later in the year, including a solemn pontifical celebration at the church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Waverley.
Saint John celebrating the Western Rite Liturgy in Paris.
The church of Saint Mary-the-Virgin at Capel-le-Ferne is used by the Saint Eanswythe Orthodox Study Society. The exact dating of the original church is difficult in that it is in the style of the pre-Schism Anglo-Saxon churches, but modified later by the Normans. It is possible that it dates from around the turn of the first millennium.
The final picture is of the procession out through the Rood Screen at the end of the Liturgy. New icons for the church were painted in the first millennium Anglo-Saxon style by the Saint Eanswythe Society's iconographer, Eadmund Dunstall (see Christ Pantocrator at the head of this article).