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   Difference of Rite

The Catholic Church has never maintained a principle of uniformity in rite. Just as there are different local laws in various parts of the Church, whereas certain fundamental laws are obeyed by all, so Catholics in different places have, their own local or national rites; they say prayers and perform ceremonies that have evolved to suit people of the various countries, and are only different expressions of the same fundamental truths. The essential elements of the functions are obviously the same everywhere, and are observed by all Catholic rites in obedience to the command of Christ and the Apostles, thus in every rite is administered with water and the invocation of the Holy Trinity; the Holy Eucharist is celebrated with bread and wine over which the words of institution are said; penance involves the confession of sins. In the amplification of these essential elements in the accompanying prayers and practical or ceremonies, various customs have produced the changes which make the different rites. If any rite did not contain one of the essential notes of the service it would be invalid in that point, if its prayers or ceremonies expressed false doctrine it would he heretical. Such rites would not be tolerated in the Catholic Church. But, supposing uniformity in essentials and in faith, the authority of the Church has never insisted on uniformity of rite; Rome has never resented the fact that other people have their own expressions of the same truths. The Roman Rite is the most, venerable, the most archaic, and immeasurably the most important of all, but our fellow Catholics in the East have the same right to their traditional liturgies as we have to ours. Nor can we doubt that other rites too have many beautiful prayers and ceremonies which add to the richness of Catholic liturgical inheritance. To lose these would be a misfortune second only to the loss of the Roman Rite. Leo XIII in his Encyclical, "Præclara" (20 June, 1894), expressed the traditional attitude of the papacy when he wrote of his reverence for the venerable able rites of the Eastern Churches and assured the schismatics, whom be invited to reunion, that there was no jealousy of these things at Rome; that for all Eastern customs "we shall provide without narrowness."

At the time of the Schism, Photius and Cerularius hurled against Latin rites and customs every conceivable absurd accusation. The Latin fast on Saturday, Lenten fare, law of celibacy, confirmation by a bishop, and especially the use of unleavened bread for the Holy Eucharist were their accusations against the West. Latin theologians replied that both were right and suitable, each for the people who used them, that there was no need for uniformity in rite if there was unity in faith, that one good custom did not prove another to be bad, thus defending their customs without attacking those of the East. But the Byzantine patriarch was breaking the unity of the Church, denying the primacy, and plunging the East into schism. In 1054, when Cerularius's schism had begun, a Latin bishop, Dominic of Gradus and Aquileia, wrote concerning it to Peter III of Antioch. He discussed the question Cerularius had raised, the use of azymes at Mass, and carefully explained that, in using this bread, Latins did not intend to disparage the Eastern custom of consecrating leavened bread, for there is a symbolic reason for either practice. "Because we know that the sacred mixture of fermented bread is used and lawfully observed by the most holy and orthodox Fathers of the Eastern Churches, we faithfully approve of both customs and confirm both by a spiritual explanation" (Will, "Acta et scripta quæ de controversiis ecclesiæ græcæ et latinæ sæc. XI composite extant", Leipzig, 1861, 207). These words represent very well the attitude of the papacy towards other rites at all times. Three points, however, may seem opposed to this and therefore require some explanation: the supplanting of the old Gallican Rite by that of Rome almost throughout the West, the modification of Uniat rites, the suppression of the later medieval rites.

The existence of the Gallican Rite was a unique anomaly. The natural principle that rite follows patriarchate has been sanctioned by universal tradition with this one exception. Since the first organization of patriarchates there has been an ideal of uniformity throughout each. The close bond that joined bishops and metropolitans to their patriarch involved the use of his liturgy, just as the priests of a diocese follow the rite of their bishop. Before the arbitrary imposition of the Byzantine Rite on all Orthodox Churches no Eastern patriarch would have tolerated a foreign liturgy in his domain. All Egypt used the Alexandrine Rite, all Syria that of Antioch-Jerusalem, all Asia Minor, Greece, and the Balkan lands, that of Constantinople. But in the vast Western lands that make up the Roman patriarchate, north of the Alps and in Spain, various local rites developed, all bearing a strong resemblance to each other, yet different from that of Rome itself. These form the Gallican family of liturgies. Abbot Cabrol, Dom Cagin, and other writers of their school think that the Gallican Rite was really the original Roman Rite before Rome modified it Paléographie musicale V, Solesmes, 1889; Cabrol, Les origines liturgiques Paris 1906). Most writers, however, maintain with Mgr Duchesne ("Origines du culte Chrétien", Paris, 1898, 8489), that the Gallican Rite is Eastern, Antiochene in origin. Certainly it has numerous Antiochene peculiarities (see GALLICAN RITE), and when it emerged as a complete rite in the sixth and seventh centuries (in Germanus of Paris, etc.), it was different from that in use at Rome at the time. Non-Roman liturgies were used at Milan, Aquileia, even at Gobble at the gates of the Roman province (Innocent I's letter to Decentius of Eugubium; Ep. xxv, in P. L., XX, 551-61). Innocent (401-17) naturally protested against the use of a foreign rite in Umbria; occasionally other popes showed some desire for uniformity in their patriarchate, but the great majority regarded the old state of things with perfect indifference. When other bishops asked them how ceremonies were performed at Rome they sent descriptions (so Pope Vigilius to Profuturus of Braga in 538; Jaffé, "Regesta Rom. Pont.", n. 907), but were otherwise content to allow different uses. St. Gregory 1 (590-604) showed no anxiety to make the new English Church conform to Rome, but told St. Augustine to take whatever rites he thought most suitable from Rome or Gaul (Ep. xi, 64, in P. L., LXXVII, 1186-7).

Thus for centuries the popes alone among patriarchs did not enforce their own rite even throughout their patriarchate. The gradual romanization and subsequent disappearance of Gallican rites were (beginning in the eighth and ninth centuries), the work not of the popes but of local bishops and kings who naturally wished to conform to the use of the Apostolic See. The Gallican Rites varied everywhere (Charles the Great gives this as his reason for adopting the Roman Use; see Hauck, "Kirchengesch. Deutschlands", 11, 107 sq.), and the inevitable desire for at least local uniformity arose. The bishops' frequent visits to Rome brought them in contact with the more dignified ritual observed by their chief at the tomb of the Apostles, and they were naturally influenced by it in their return home. The local bishops in synods ordered conformity to Rome. The romanizing movement in the West came from below. In the Frankish kingdom Charles the Great, as part of his scheme of unifying, sent to Adrian I for copies of the Roman books, commanding their use throughout his domain. In the history of the substitution of the Roman Rite for the Gallican the popes appear as spectators, except perhaps in Spain and much later in Milan. The final result was the application in the West of the old principle, for since the pope was undoubtedly Patriarch of the West it was inevitable, that sooner or later the West should conform to his rite. The places, however, that really cared for their old local rites (Milan, Toledo) retain them even now.

It is true that the changes made in some Uniat rites by the Roman correctors have not always corresponded to the best liturgical tradition. There are as Mgr Duchesne says, "corrections inspired by zeal that was not always according to knowledge " (Origines du culte, 2nd ed., 69), but they are much fewer than is generally supposed and have never been made with the idea of romanizing. Despite the general prejudice that Uniat rites are mere mutilated hybrids, the strongest impression from the study of them is how little has been changed. Where there is no suspicion of false doctrine, as in the Byzantine Rite, the only change made was the restoration of the name of the pope where the schismatics had erased it. Although the question of the procession of the Holy Ghost has been so fruitful a source of dispute between Rome and Constantinople the Filioque clause was certainly not contained in the original creed, nor did the Roman authorities insist on its addition. So Rome is content that Eastern Catholics should keep their traditional form unchanged, though they believe the Catholic doctrine. The Filioque is only sung by those Byzantine Uniats who wish it themselves, as the Ruthenians. Other rites were altered in places, not to romanize but only to eradicate passages suspected of heresy. All other Uniats came from Nestorian, Monophysite, or Monothelete sects, whose rites had been used for centuries by heretics. Hence, when bodies of these people wished to return to the Catholic Church their services were keenly studied at Rome for possible heresy. In most cases corrections were absolutely necessary. The Nestorian Liturgy, for instance, did not contain the words of institution, which had to be added to the Liturgy of the converted Chaldees. The Monophysite Jacobites, Copts, and Armenians have in the Trisagion the fateful clause: "who wast crucified for us", which has been the watchword of Monophysitism ever since Peter the Dyer of Antioch added it (470-88). If only because of its associations this could not remain in a Catholic Liturgy.

In some instances, however, the correctors were over scrupulous. In the Gregorian Armenian Liturgy the words said by the deacon at the expulsion of the catechumens, long before the Consecration: "The body of the Lord and the blood of the Saviour are set forth (or "are before us") (Brightman, "Eastern Liturgies", 430) were in the Uniat Rite changed to: "are about to be before us". The Uniats also omit the words sung by the Gregorian choir before the Anaphora: "Christ has been manifested amongst us (has appeared in the midst of us)" (ibid., 434), and further change the cherubic hymn because of its anticipation of the Consecration. These misplacements are really harmless when understood, yet any reviser would be shocked by such strong cases. In many other ways also the Armenian Rite shows evidence of Roman influence. It has unleavened bread, our confession and Judica psalm at the beginning of Mass, a Lavabo before the Canon, the last Gospel, etc. But so little is this the effect of union with Rome that the schismatical Armenians have all these points too. They date from the time of the Crusades, when the Armenians, vehemently opposed to the Orthodox, made many advances towards Catholics. So also the strong romanizing of the Maronite Liturgy was entirely the work of the Maronites themselves, when, surrounded by enemies in the East, they too turned towards the great Western Church, sought her communion, and eagerly copied her practices. One can hardly expect the pope to prevent other Churches from imitating Roman customs. Yet in the case of Uniats he does even this. A Byzantine Uniat priest who uses unleavened bread in his Liturgy incurs excommunication. The only case in which an ancient Eastern rite has been wilfully romanized is that of the Uniat Malabar Christians, where it was not Roman authority but the misguided zeal of Alexius de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, and his Portuguese advisers at the Synod of Diamper (1599) which spoiled the old Malabar Rite.

The Western medieval rites are in no case (except the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites), really independent of Rome. They are merely the Roman Rite with local additions and modifications, most of which are to its disadvantage. They are late, exuberant, and inferior variants, whose ornate additions and long interpolated tropes, sequences, and farcing destroy the dignified simplicity of the old liturgy. In 1570 the revisers appointed by the Council of Trent restored with scrupulous care and, even in the light of later studies, brilliant success the pure Roman Missal, which Pius V ordered should alone be used wherever the Roman Rite is followed. It was a return to an older and purer form. The medieval rites have no doubt a certain archæological interest; but where the Roman Rite is used it is best to use it in its pure form. This too only means a return to the principle that rite should follow patriarchate. The reform was made very prudently, Pius V allowing any rite that could prove an existence of two centuries to remain (Bull "Quo primum", 19 July, 1570, printed first in the Missal), thus saving any local use that had a certain antiquity. Some dioceses (e.g. Lyons) and religious orders (Dominicans, Carthusians, Carmelites), therefore keep their special uses, and the independent Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites, whose loss would have been a real misfortune (see LITURGY, MASS, LITURGY OF THE) still remain.

Rome then by no means imposed uniformity of rite. Catholics are united in faith and discipline, but in their manner of performing the sacred functions there is room for variety based on essential unity, as there was in the first centuries. There are cases (e.g. the Georgian Church) where union with Rome has saved the ancient use, while the schismatics have been forced to abandon it by the centralizing policy of their authorities (in this case Russia). The ruthless destruction of ancient rites in favour of uniformity has been the work not of Rome but of the schismatical patriarchs of Constantinople. Since the thirteenth century Constantinople in its attempt to make itself the one centre of the Orthodox Church has driven out the far more venerable and ancient Liturgies of Antioch and Alexandria and has compelled all the Orthodox to use its own late derived rite. The Greek Liturgy of St. Mark has ceased to exist; that of St. James has been revived for one or two days in the year at Zakynthos and Jerusalem only (see ANTIOCHENE LITURGY). The Orthodox all the world over must follow the Rite of Constantinople. In this unjustifiable centralization we have a defiance of the old principle, since Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Cyprus, in no way belong to the Byzantine Patriarchate. Those who accuse the papacy of sacrificing everything for the sake of uniformity mistake the real offender, the oecumenical patriarch.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII
Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York