Orthodox Western Rite: Interview with Abp John of New York/New Jersey [Milan Synod]

As promised, our interview with Archbishop John [LoBue] of New York and New Jersey, who last week authorized the release of the entire English translation of the pre-schism Western Rite used in the Milan Synod’s American Archdioceses over the Internet, being made available in parts at this website [link], a work spanning, in total, of about 18,000 pages of pre-schism Western Orthodox liturgical texts, and which will be estimated to be completely online by January or February.

NFTU: What prompted you to release the texts?

One, that, frankly, someone gave us a donation so we could buy a scanner, and two, there was a call for it on the internet, and three, I had always wanted to make it available freely but couldn’t do it cheaply.

NFTU: Tell us a little about the nature of these texts.

This is an attempt to provide in the English language the chant that was used in the Great Schism, the monastic office that was described in great detail in the Rule of St Benedict. And following the tradition of the monasteries in England that were the result of the foundation of such by St Gregory Dialogus in the person of St Augustine of Canterbury– in my preface to each of the volumes, [it is noted] that St Gregory wrote to Pope St Evlogios of Alexandria describing in detail the things he had sent with St Augustine to England.

NFTU: How did you come to learn of these manuscripts?

Around 1975, discussions with then-Fr John Shaw– who had learned of this through Bishop Danilo of the Serbians– led me to investigate and obtain microfilm copies of these manuscripts– [pre-schism manuscripts that were not destroyed during the English reformation that were in use at the time of the great schism] specifically the Portiforium Oswaldi.

NFTU: And so it’s from the Portiforium that the texts are based.


NFTU: Why are there so many texts?

To cover the huge amount of material, all of which has individual melodies to be done throughout the year, together with the book of psalms, it represent a huge treasury that existed in the Church in the first millenium. There are the separate texts and melodies for each of the seasons of the year, each of the saints days of the year; due to the length of the offices, this takes many many books to print these in a manner that is easy to follow.

NFTU: There has been a lot of concern about releasing books that were previously for sale on the Internet.  How do you respond to that?

There’s always a concern that some indiviudals will appropriate this material and not use it in the context of Orthodox worship or will claim to use this as their own editing since it is a matter of translation and not of original construction.

NFTU: But it is a lot of material to be made free. I guess the question is why? Why not keep simply selling it?

Because the cost of printing is so high that I’ve never printed it with a view for seeking profit, so it is more important that those who are Orthodox should have access to these books.

NFTU: What would you like to see happen with these texts? Ideally what would the end result be?

I would like to see monastic communities offer the Western rite and fulfill the rule of St Benedict as St Benedict designated.

NFTU: NFTU is a True Orthodox site. As you know, the Milan Synod is the only True Orthodox Synod with Western rites right now. What would you like to see in terms of reception of these texts among other synods?

I would like those who are True Orthodox to recognize that these ancient Western texts fully express both Orthodox teaching and Orthodox spirituality. For example, there is an antiphon in the offices of the Theotokos that beautifully speaks of the comparison of the Holy Theotokos to the burning bush of Sinai in that it held God but was not consumed by it.

NFTU: Do you have any spiritual words or suggestions for the readers of these texts?

There’s just my wish that those who use this do so with the fervor of heart and the desire never to forsake the Orthodox faith of those who used these prayers at the time of the great schism.