The Orthodox Church Of Epirus

True Canonical Orthodoxy

Western Rite Vicariate (WRV)


All clergy and congregations following a form of western liturgy or Rite are held to these guidelines. 


Note that we do not use general terms like "Western Rite" or "Eastern Rite" per se, since there are many different types of Eastern and Western Rites. 


In the same manner as the Byzantine Rite can be celebrated in either its original (classical) Greek or in the vernacular language, so any form of the western rites (e.g. the Latin/Roman, Celtic, Gallican, Mozarabic, etc.) can be celebrated either in its original language (such as Latin) or in the vernacular language. 

The Latin (Roman) Rite

The OCE requires to solely use the Tridentine style Missal (vernacular or in Latin) for Holy Mass in the Latin Rite; and other rites upon approval of their respective Missal.

The Sanctuary


The sanctuary should be arranged according to these minimum rules: The church proper is the area within the building, separated into the Bema where the altar is and where the clergy serve liturgy; and the nave where the congregation gathers. The altar is situated in the Bema in the eastern part of the church, either freestanding or against the eastern wall, so that the celebrant at the altar is facing east (ad orientem) with the congregation behind him facing in the same direction. The clergy’s chair(s) (cathedra) are arranged to either side of the altar, with the chair of the bishop, flanked by his attendants’ chairs, to the left (north) side and the other clergy’s chair to the right (south) side, west of the credence table.  In the case of a freestanding Altar, the chairs may be arranged along the eastern wall. The bishop, for ordinations and similar occasions, may sit on a chair on the Ambo (the area between the altar and the nave, sometimes raised a step or two). A pulpit may be used, but preaching normally is done from the ambo (using a lectern on the ambo is allowed). The reader, the deacon and the priest may read or chant from the Ambo. The credence table is placed close to the right (south) side of the Altar. The sacred images (icons, holy pictures and statuary) may be arranged in accordance with traditional usages. -- There may be seating and aisles provided, as necessary. If there is a fixed baptismal font, it should be outside or just inside the western entrance to the nave. The congregation stands, kneels or sits in the nave during divine Services.



The Altar


The altar is a stone or wooden cube or rectangular table, at least one yard high (more often 39 to 44 inches high). The altar is covered with at least one white linen cloth, and has two lights (candles or lamps) and a cross or crucifix, either on it or next to it. Holy Mass and other sacred Services are celebrated at the altar. Therefore, the altar table itself may be consecrated. If an unconsecrated table is used, a consecrated altar stone should be placed (built in) under the altar linens and/or a consecrated Antimension cloth may also be placed under the altar linens. A white linen Corporal is placed over the altar stone, before the linen is placed over the entire altar. Generally, only the sacred vessels with the Holy Gifts may be on the open Corporal. The white or red linen Purificator is placed on the Altar to the right of the Corporal; optionally, so may a little bell (for the Offertory and  Sanctus-Benedictus ) be placed there (in case there is no acolyte or in private Masses). To the left or right side on the altar is the Missal on a bookstand or pillow. The book for the Epistle and Gospel readings (Lectionary) is placed on the pulpit or reader stand facing the congregation. For private Mass, it may be placed on either side of the altar.



The Credence Table


The credence is a rectangular table, placed close to the right side of the Altar; it should be covered with at least one cloth. Since the origins in the Holy Mass i.e., of the bread consecrated as the Holy Eucharist, the credence may have on it, or above it on the wall, a sacred image of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prepared Chalice and Paten are set up in the front center of the credence. The Lavabo ewer (i.e., pitcher or cruet of water) and the Lavabo bowl and the Lavabo towel, as well as the tray with the filled cruet of water for the ablutions, are set on the front right side. Towards the rear right side of the credence, the Paschal Candle may be placed. It is lit throughout Holy Mass during the Paschal season and at Holy Baptism throughout the year. It may also be lit during Requiem Liturgies. On the rear left side, the Censer is hanging from a bracket, the incense boat with spoon and the charcoal tongs are on a small table or wall shelf. Alternatively, a censer stand may be used. On the front left side is a handled Communion Paten, if one is to be used in communing the people.


Liturgical Colors


The Latin Rite rubrics for colors may be used as guidance. The Eastern Rite rule of lighter colors for joyous occasions and darker colors for more solemn or penitential occasions may be used as guidance. Neither is considered a binding rule. The practice of regulating liturgical colors for certain days or feasts dates only from the 13th century in the Western Church. White and the colors that substitute for white, i.e. gold, silver, flax, etc., are always and everywhere correct. A parish church should maintain one set of vestments in white, or gold, silver and flax. A violet stole may be used for certain Services, such as Confession, etc. – Maintenance of a complete set of vestments in other colors is advised. All altar linens should be white.

The traditional Latin Rite rules for liturgical colors:

OCE Latin Rite priests are held to only celebrate the traditional (Tridentine) Mass in either the vernacular or Latin language; or in a combination thereof. Western Rite parishes (of any western rite) may function within a particular diocese, but they are also part of the OCE Western Rite Vicariate.

The symbolism attached to these liturgical colors:






The celebrant may exercise discretion in providing for hymns, psalms and chants to be sung or chanted at the entrance of the ministers at the Holy Mass at their recession; and during other parts of the Liturgy, such as the Gloria, Gradual, Offertory, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Communion. Seasonal hymns (such as Christmas hymns) may be sung, but should not be allowed to unduly delay the service. The singing of hymns during the distribution of Communion to both, the clergy and the people, and during the post-Communion ablutions is desirable.



The use of bells in the Western Church began no later than the 8th century.  Therefore, while the use of bells is not required, it is permissible. The rubrics provide particularly for the use of a sacristy bell to signal the entrance and the recession of ministers; the use of a small single bell on the Altar by the celebrant to signal the beginning of Offertory, Sanctus-Benedictus, the Epiclesis (after “Te igitur”, the elevation of the host and chalice, and before the priest’s communion; and the use of chimes (multiple small bells, usually four) or a gong by the Altar Server or acolyte during Holy Mass to signal certain solemn moments (e.g., Words of Institution, Epiclesis, Domine non sum dignus, etc.). Generally, metal bells are to be used, but crystal and glass bells are not prohibited.




Guidelines For Clergy Of Any Western Rite


I. Attire


Clergy are best advised to always wear their respective attire; but such is not always possible, especially for the worker-clergy who take secular employment in order to support their ministries, missions and families. The preferred secular street attire is a common black “clerical suit", with all black accessories (pants, shoes, belt, etc.). Besides the coat and trousers, the suit may include a black vest. A black secular hat of a type considered common and conservative in the clergyman’s locality (e.g., a Fedora) is acceptable. Preferred shirts are black tab-collar clerical shirts or neckband shirts and long-sleeved white dress shirts. The use of rabats, shirt fronts, etc., using Roman or Anglican style clerical collars is permissible. We recommend the tab-collared shirt because it is today’s generic uniform for clergy and not specifically denominational.  Black secular overcoats, raincoats, umbrellas, etc., may be used. Use of colored clerical shirts is not prohibited, but discouraged. Some clergy may wear a pectoral cross, over their shirt or vest, if so awarded by the bishop.  Liturgical crosses and pectoral Icons are not to be worn with secular attire, i.e., suits.  These rules for street attire are guidelines, not canonical laws. The bishop may modify them for individual cases.


Ecclesiastical vesture, such as habit and cassock: The ancient Roman cassock, the Pellicia, dates from the 5th century. All clergy (minor & major) may wear a black cassock. Current styles of the Soutane or Roman cassock with clerical collars may be worn by all clergy. Clergy may also wear Anglican style cassocks with clerical collars. The close-sleeved Eastern cassock called the “Greek cassock” also may be worn; it does not require a clerical collar. However, a long-sleeved white dress shirt or a long-sleeved white clerical shirt may be worn under the cassock, showing white at the collar and at the sleeves. A priest’s cassock must always be black, regardless of rank.  A cassock may be worn by the major clergy (deacons, priests, bishops) as street attire. A cassock of light wool is a good idea for street attire. No cincture is required to be worn with a cassock for married clergy.  Headwear: All clergy may wear Birettas or Skufias; there are two styles: the western Biretta and the eastern Scufia or Skoufos. A western Biretta is a four-cornered brimless cap with three tabs and a pom. A Skufia or Skufos is a soft brimless cap, either Slavic or Greek style.


A priest dressed in the cassock may wear one cross on his breast, if this is so awarded to him by the bishop. A bishop, dressed in the cassock, may wear a Panagia or pectoral cross. Walking sticks for bishops are used, but old-fashioned. Commonly, a monastic cleric may carry a prayer rope or rosary around his wrist or hanging from the cincture or belt as a reminder of prayer at all times and places.



II. Liturgical Postures


The celebrant extends his hands outward and palms slightly up, in the ancient orante posture, wherever so indicated in the rubrics.  Otherwise, he joins his hands at his breast unless his hands are otherwise occupied (e.g., giving a blessing, holding a book, holding the Holy Gifts, etc.).


Whenever any minister crosses over the centerline of the sanctuary (a line drawn from the center of the altar through the center of the Nave), he should turn towards the altar and make a reverence, i.e. either a deep bow, a prostration or genuflection (depending on Rite or tradition). The faithful should be taught to do the same.


III. Censing


The Holy Eucharist was originally celebrated in Greek; the most ancient of all liturgies, it dates from the first two centuries. Incense was not used during the first two centuries at Rome. Therefore, in the Latin Rite incense does not need not be used, except during High Mass. Likewise, bells were not used either and hence are not essential. If incense is used, the celebrant first spoons a little incense onto the coal and then blesses the incense, making the Sign of the Cross with his hand over the incense. The celebrant then censes those things, which are to be censed at that particular point in the liturgy.


The making of the Sign of the Cross is a reverent act, which is accompanied by prayer. It is a reminder that we are children of God and, by making the Sign of the Cross, we signify our desire to serve Christ.


IV. The Orthodox Sign of the Cross


In the Eastern tradition, joining the thumb and two fingers to make the Sign of the Cross symbolizes the Holy Trinity and indicates our belief in the triune God. The two fingers that are bent downward into the palm signify the two natures united within our Lord Jesus Christ, His human and His divine natures, and thus signify our true belief in the descent of the Son of God to earth. The two fingers indicate His heavenly and earthly existences – as true God and as mortal man. The forehead is touched to make our minds and thoughts holy; the breast is touched to make our hearts pure and kind; the shoulders are touched to give our arms and hands the power to do good works.


By the Sign of the Cross we give our minds, our hearts and our strength to the service of God. The Sign of the Cross is one of the most ancient devotional actions of the Christian people. It is a Sign to live by, a Sign to die for, the Sign of our salvation. When we bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, we show our true belief that the most Holy Trinity has sanctified our thoughts, feelings, desires and acts. We express our belief that Jesus Christ sanctified our souls and saved us by His sufferings on the cross. Proper attention to this simple but profound devotion is essential to acting and living as members of the Body of Christ, His Holy Church. 


Standing & Kneeling: We stand as a sign of respect. Christ is present in His Word and in the Holy Eucharist, and we must stand in the presence of the king. Thus, we stand for the reading of the Holy Gospel; but at other times we may also kneel, such as for the sacrifice of the liturgy and as guided by the rubrics of the Service books.


Sitting: Sitting is the least respectful attitude. Everyone is free to stand throughout the Service, but one also may be seated from time to time, as indicated by the rubrics. We especially expect that the very young, the very old, mothers with small children, the ill and the disabled, would often prefer to sit. Of course, everyone who is able should stand for the reading of the Holy Gospel and for the Anaphora (Eucharistic Canon). Sitting is particularly appropriate when listening to a sermon and/or to reading from the Holy Scriptures (except the Holy Gospel). Sitting is also appropriate when the ministers are performing ablutions, preparations (such as the Offertory), etc., which are not prayers in which the people participate. It was also the practice of the teacher to sit during instruction. Thus, the bishop may sit when giving an instructional sermon.  It is the ancient tradition of the bishop’s chair (the “cathedra”) which is the basis for the word “cathedral” in its various applications.

Hands: During Holy Mass, the people and clergy often pray with folded hands. This posture, with the palms of the hands folded together, is the usual manner of praying, both publicly and privately. Sometimes, especially at the Prayers of the Faithful, the people may pray in the ancient “orante” posture, that is, with their hands lifted up in prayer (a prayer posture more often assumed by the clergy); this posture is also often used by the people at the time of the Lord’s Prayer.

Facing East: To the extent at all possible, Christians should face east to pray, privately or in public worship. Places of worship, and even private prayer corners, should be arranged so that the people face East when praying.  The East, as the place of the rising sun, for the early Christians was the only fitting symbol of the last appearance of Christ in His parousia, as that Sun of Justice, sung of already in the Canticle of Zechariah. It is an apostolic tradition to pray either publicly or privately facing East. In this symbolism we express the eschatological expectation of the lasting day of eternity, in which the Christus Victor would appear as the rising sun which will never set.


V. Anámnesis


The use of the word Anamnesis in the Canon of the Liturgy (e.g., as used in the prayer: “Now, therefore, making the Anámnesis of His death and resurrection...") deserves some brief explanation. The word anámnesis is Greek, meaning “to again call to mind” or “to make present past events". The word Anamnesis in the above prayers is usually replaced today by phrases such as “do this in memory of Me” and “you make my commemoration". In our Rites, we use the original word Anamnesis, because the substitutes do not convey the same meaning. The Holy Eucharist does not repeat the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Holy Cross; rather, it is an offering again and again of the sacrificed Body and Blood, which were offered once on the cross by our redeemer Jesus Christ. The sacrifice on Golgotha and the eucharistic sacrifice can be distinguished from each other, but they are one single and inseparable sacrifice. What distinguishes them is the eucharistic sacrifice of the Holy Liturgy as a bloodless sacrifice, performed after the resurrection of Christ, our immortal king.  Thus, we bring the past events, the sacrifice of Jesus upon the holy cross and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, into the present moment; that is, we make the presentation (Anamnesis) of those events now, today. In a mystical way, time is overcome as we participate today by this Anamnesis in the greatest events in human history: They are now present to us. This is central to the Holy Mystery of the liturgy and Holy Communion.


Women and girls are welcome in every part of the parish church; they are not to be excluded from chanting, reading or from assisting the celebrant (as acolyte). However, they must wear the proper Acolyte vestment.


The Host (Amnos) for Holy Communion is a leavened bread in the Eastern Rites, long before the West used unleavened communion Hosts. Hence, the Amnos for Holy Communion in Eastern Rites may be the leavened Prosforon or a Western Host. The Latin Rite uses predominantly the unleavened Host.

The very ancient tradition of distributing blessed bread (Eulogia, Panis Benedictus, Antidoron) was widespread in the Church and is provided for in the Ordinary of the Byzantine Liturgy. Eulogia is NOT the holy Eucharist, but an Antidoron, i.e., the blessed bread instead of the Holy Gifts. All may receive it  –  more fittingly though, only those who did not receive Holy Communion.

Celebrants may call the congregation to sacred Services by use of a bell.

Duplication (celebrating two Liturgies in one day) is only permitted if pastorally so warranted. The celebration of a private Mass is also permitted and traditional in the Latin Rite, that is, when no congregation is physically present.


VI. Remarks On The Epiklesis


The Roman Canon contains already an Epiclesis, right before the words of institution in the “Hanc igitur” and following. Hence, it is nonsensical and utterly superfluous to add a Byzantine Epiclesis into the Latin Rite Canon. Furthermore, there is no teaching that the Epiclesis has to be after the words of institution (Anamnesis); it is only an Eastern tradition or usage to do so. Thus, before the split in 1054, the West had the Roman Canon basically as it is today. Furthermore, the Epiclesis is not a magic ritual using Byzantine semantics. It is the intention of the church, celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ as the Holy Eucharist, to call down the Holy Spirit (Epiclesis) to change the elements.


VII. Liturgy Is Proclaiming Christ’s Presence


There are many accounts, Scriptural references and readings of the Fathers to bring us all to the reality of the real, Holy and Divine Presence within the Holy Eucharist.

This Holy and Divine Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ within the Holy Eucharist is the core of Eucharistic theology. It will be that basic belief in the Holy and Divine real presence, that will eventually and hopefully bring all of us together in one way or another – especially since some appear to drift into the thinking and belief that the Eucharist is only a memorial.  Yet, it is universal (catholic) doctrine and faith that bread and wine actually are changed into the Body and Blood through the power and glory of God. After this moment, our earthly eyes still see bread and wine on the Holy Altar, in their appearance. Invisibly to our eyes, however, this is the true Body and the true Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in essence, yet under the forms or species of bread and wine. The sanctified Gifts of bread and wine in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist are changed or transubstantiated into the true Body and true Blood of Christ. This is confirmed in the Gospel of St. John, “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). -- Is this not our very reason for celebration of the divine presence within our joint and mutual apostolic heritage?


VIII. The Traditional Mass


The Western Mass or Liturgy is often called the Tridentine Mass, a reference to the fact that it was codified by Pope St. Pius V shortly after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), from which is derived the term “Tridentine”. Contrary to what some people may believe, Pope Pius V did not issue a new Mass, but simply unified the already existing liturgy. The Latin Mass itself can rightly be called the Mass of the West, since it dates back to the time of the early church in Rome and was then unified by Pope Gregory I in the 6th century. The Latin Canon as we know it was finished by 399 A.D.; Latin ceased to be the vernacular language between the 7th and 9th centuries, as regional and what we call know Romance languages developed (Spanish, Italian, French, Rumanian, etc.). However, the Mass continued to be offered in Latin, because much of the liturgy had already been established in that language. The Fathers of the Church, both of East and West, at that time saw no reason to adopt to the new vernacular languages. This was a fortunate situation, since a language, although no longer spoken, served as a common bond of communication throughout the Church and the centuries.


The Orthodox Church has always favored the traditional way. This is not, because our clergy are old-fashioned and prefer the reverent atmosphere of the ancient liturgy. Rather, our Latin Rite clergy act in obedience to historic worship. They have kept the traditional Mass, because it is clearly recognized as Latin Rite orthodox.  Many church fathers have taught that sacred liturgy is intimately bound up with the teaching of the ancient faith and therefore must conform to and reflect these truths – so much so that the liturgy (Holy Mass) actually serves as a safeguard to the integrity of our faith. For this reason, the Church has always carefully protected the text of its liturgies, in order to prevent doctrinal errors from creeping into the Church. The traditional liturgies are thus a perfect expression of the unchanging truths of the Orthodox faith.


The Holy Liturgy, whether Eastern or Western, is the supreme act of worshipping God, who is above time, language and culture. The focus and aim of the liturgy is to give to God the honor and reverence due to Him.


We recall the four marks of the Church, by which we can recognize that she is one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic:


 Commitment To The Traditional Rites


We are committed to the belief that the venerable Rite of the ancient liturgies (either in Latin or the vernacular) in its reverence, its beauty and its richly symbolic reflection of two millennia of Christian experience continues to have much to offer in the Church and to the world today.


Accordingly, we hold to these tenets:

1.  To uphold the teachings and practices of the Church as defined by the Ecumenical Councils in a compassionate and conciliatory approach.

2.  To promote the regular and frequent public celebration of Holy Liturgy, whether as High Mass or Low Mass in accordance with a western Rite, either in an ancient or a vernacular language; or in the traditional Byzantine or other Eastern Rite.

3.  To encourage the study, appreciation and use of the traditional music in divine worship: Oriental and Byzantine music, Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, organ and hymns.

4.  To promote the regular and frequent prayer of the Holy Breviary (or various versions of the Liturgy of the Hours), the Eastern Horologion, whether privately or in community, either in a liturgical language (such as Greek, Latin) or in the vernacular language.